Sunday, March 13, 2011

Preds dispose of Avalanche, 4-2

The Nashville Predators overcame a sloppy effort against the Colorado Avalanche to win their second consecutive game by a score of 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Joel Ward and Martin Erat both had multi-point games, and Pekka Rinne secured his 25th win this season.

1st Period

  • Colorado was coming off a 6-2 home loss to Anaheim last night, and definitely looked sluggish out of the gate. The Preds took advantage early, as Shea Weber scored at 4:16, banging home a loose puck.
  • Nashville extended their lead at 11:36, as Matt Halischuk scored off the rebound of a Kevin Klein blast. The play was started by Blake Geoffrion, as he intercepted a pass in the Colorado zone, and got the puck to Klein. The assist was Geoffrion's first point on home ice.
2nd Period 
  • As the period started, it was clear that Colorado had more jump. Pucks were being put on net with more frequency, and players were crashing the net with more urgency than the first period. That hard work was rewarded at 4:15, as mass chaos ensued in the Nashville zone, resulting in a bombardment of shots being thrown at Pekka Rinne. Rinne made a series of spectacular saves, but kept giving up rebounds, and Ryan O'Reilly finally managed to get the puck past the Preds netminder.
  • Minutes later, it appeared O'Reilly had knotted the score at two off of a deflection, but his stick was clearly over the crossbar when contact was made with the puck, erasing the equalizer.
  • At 13:31, Joel Ward scored the most exhilarating goal that I've ever seen in person. Ward had gone to the Preds bench to get a new stick, as his had snapped in half in the Colorado zone. Upon re-entering the Avs zone, he proceeded to intercept a Jay McClement pass in the slot, faked a slap-shot, got around an over-committed Peter Budaj, and tucked the puck neatly inside the left post. I remember Ward scoring almost an identical goal against Dallas in December of 2008, his first year with the Preds. Just an absolute gem of a goal.
(Note: Ryan Porth over at Red Light District dug up the videos of both goals. You can find the link here.)
  • Lately, the Preds have done a great job of not giving up goals in the waning moments of periods. That execution had a hiccup at 19:30, as a Daniel Winnick slap-shot from the top of the right circle went off a skate of Colin Wilson and beat Rinne.
  • The Jordin Tootoo-Ryan Wilson fight at the end of the period... wow. Everyone knows that Tootoo is a human fireball, but he was all over the place tonight, dishing out hits and firing shots on net whenever he could. He only played 8:28, but it was a noisy 8:28.
3rd Period
  • At times, it felt like it was inevitable that Colorado was going to tie the game up. Nashville appeared to be on their heels at times, and the Avs kept getting glorious scoring opportunities, such as Ryan O'Reilly getting a breakaway off of a Cody Franson blocked shot, only to be stopped by Rinne.
  • Rinne stood tall, and Martin Erat iced the game at 19:58, with a SPECTACULAR effort to get by two Avs players, gain possession of the puck, and deposit it into the empty net. I'm not sure what's gotten into Erat, but over the past month-plus, he's given the Preds a shot in the arm in both offense and confidence. The desire and the effort had been questioned at times this season and last, but, at least for now, those questions can be put to rest.
Other Thoughts
  • Rinne stopped 38 of 40 shots tonight, but he was giving up a pretty significant number of rebounds in the process. Luckily, he decided to have an "off" night against a weaker team in Colorado, as the Preds were able to muster enough offense to lift up their star netminder.
  • Mike Fisher made me cringe several times tonight. I'm aware of the fact he may be injured, and that may very well be the reason he made several uncharacteristically bad plays tonight. Hopefully whatever is wrong with him will straighten itself out over the next few days.
  • With Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk, and John-Michael Liles  scratched for the Avs tonight, Ryan O'Reilly stepped up big-time and had a solid game. He scored a goal (and also had one waived off), won half of his faceoffs, and was just everywhere on the ice.
A sloppy performance, but nonetheless, the Preds got huge two points out of it. Their still on the outside looking in when looking at the playoff chase, as they're a single point out of a four-way tie for fifth place in the West. A huge game against one of those four teams looms large on Tuesday, as the Los Angeles Kings roll into town. 

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