Thursday, March 24, 2011

Preds 5, Ducks 4: Two points is two points

The Nashville Predators collected their fifth win in a row, chasing Jonas Hiller in the first period and hanging on for dear life for a huge 5-4 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Nashville wins the regular season series against the Ducks (3-1), and now have a much needed cushion over one of the teams chasing them for a playoff spot. For now.

1st Period
  • Jonas Hiller returned to his post between the pipes for the first time since shutting out Edmonton on February 13th, his bout with vertigo seemingly over. As good as Hiller is, he had the potential to be a little rusty, so Nashville needed to get to him early and often. They did just that.
  • At 2:04, Patric Hornqvist threw a shot on net from the corner to Hiller's left, and the puck somehow squeaked behind the Ducks goalie and to an unmarked Sergei Kostitsyn, who finished the job to give Nashville the early 1-0 lead.
  • At 11:18, Jon Blum sent a blast wide of Hiller. The rebound banked right back out in front of the net and onto the stick of Nick Spaling. Right place, right time, and the Preds led by two.
  • Nineteen seconds later, Kostitsyn deflected a Hornqvist shot past Hiller, ending his return to action after giving up his third goal on nine shots. Ex-Predator Dan Ellis replaced Hiller in goal.
  • Much like Tuesday night, Nashville took their foot off the pedal, and Anaheim poured on the pressure, mainly coming from their their top line of Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry. At 16:01, that line struck, as a no-look pass from Bobby Ryan found Corey Perry all alone in front of Pekka Rinne, and Perry scored to get the Ducks on the board.
  • Anaheim had several opportunities to score several goals in the period, but Pekka Rinne was up to the task, and limited the damage to one goal.
2nd Period
  • Anaheim's first line continued to buzz, and Andreas Lilja got into the act with a breakaway upon exiting the penalty box, but Rinne continued to hold the fort.
  • At 18:20, a Jordin Tootoo shot found its way through heavy traffic and past Dan Ellis, stretching the Preds lead to 4-1. The goal was Tootoo's first since December 15th, and also his first since rejoining the team after going through the NHL's rehabilitation program.
3rd Period
  • At 9:29, with the help of a Joel Ward screen/piledrive of Dan Ellis, David Legwand scored a shorthanded goal to put the Preds up 5-1. The puck was clearly in the net before Ward made contact with Ellis, but Ward was still assessed a roughing penalty, putting Nashville down two men, which would play a key point just seconds later.
  • Four goal lead. Pekka in net. The game is over, right? Wrong. Ten seconds after Legwand's shortie, Teemu Selanne blew by Ryan Suter (huh?) and scored, the 5-on-3 PP goal cutting Nashville's lead to 5-2.
  • Three goal lead. Pekka in net. Ten minutes remaining. This one is still over, right? Wrong again. The Finnish Flash scored his second goal of the period on yet another 5-on-3 PP, as a shot on net seemed to handcuff Rinne and get by him. 
  • So. Was anyone having flashbacks of Toronto by this time? After what happened in the Anaheim-Dallas game last night, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.
  • Tonight's game had goals resulting off all kinds of crazy bounces, but Ryan Suter's "goal" took the cake. At 19:33, Corey Perry elevated a shot (or a centering pass?) towards the Nashville net. Suter than proceeded to kick the puck past Rinne, and just like that, it was a one goal game. Methinks Suter has seen one too many commercials advertising the USA-Paraguay soccer match on Tuesday.
Other Thoughts
  • Anaheim outshot Nashville 18-6 in the 3rd, and 38-28 in the game. If not for the three-goal outburst in the first period against a cold goalie, Anaheim very well might have one this game.
  • Kevin Klein's two assists was his first multi-point game since the win over Montreal on December 18th. Klein has nothing on Jerrod Smithson, as Smithers has not recorded a multi-point game since January 19, 2008. Someone is way overdue.
  • Interesting to only see Blake Geoffrion only get 5:10 of ice time. One would figure after his recent scoring outburst that Barry Trotz would play him more, but I guess that's not the case.
  • The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line was everywhere for the Ducks. They produced several excellent scoring chances, and at least one person on that line was on the ice for all four Anaheim goals.
  • Just an off night for Ryan Suter. Happens to the best of them.
Once again, two points is two points, any way you look at it. Nashville was given a tremendous challenge tonight, and they came through. Another challenge awaits on Saturday night, as another team that is chasing them in the playoff race arrives in Smashville, in the form of the Dallas Stars. A regulation win would go a LONG way in securing a playoff spot come early April.

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