Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rinne, youngsters lead Preds over battered Red Wings, 3-1

Anytime the Detroit Red Wings make a visit to Smashville, both players and fans alike crank up the intensity a few notches, leading to some hard-fought, close games. Tonight was no different, as the Nashville Predators found all the offense they needed from two rookies and rode Pekka Rinne to the finish line, grabbing two huge points in the process in a 3-1 final. Preds back into the playoff picture, as they leap-frogged the Calgary Flames and are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for 7th.

1st Period
  • With Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Juri Hudler injured, among others, the game turned into more of a must-win than it already was. The Preds had beaten Detroit three consecutive times, and the Wings were left vulnerable once again without the services of two main components of their offense.
  • The game started out a little rough, and got rougher as the period progressed. The refs swallowed their whistles for most of the period, and missed several pretty blatant calls on both sides. Soon, Shea Weber had seen enough, and after being on the wrong end of a pick set up by Patrick Eaves, leveled Eaves into the end-boards as play stopped. Weber was assessed a roughing minor, but his message had been heard loud and clear.
  • On the ensuing power play, it appeared that the Red Wings had taken the lead, but the goal was quickly waved off as it appeared that Tomas Holmstrom had made contact with Pekka Rinne. After looking at a couple replays, I'm not so sure about the call, but Holmstrom is notorious for parking in front of goaltenders on the power play, and the refs must have seen enough to disallow the goal. 
  • Moments after the power play expired, Sergei Kostitsyn was assessed an elbowing minor, and eight seconds into the power play, Daniel Cleary got just enough of a Henrik Zetterberg centering feed to chip the puck up and over Rinne, giving the Wings the lead at 19:38.
2nd Period
  • Blake Geoffrion picked an ideal time to register his first goal in front of the home fans. The Tennessee native knotted the score at 8:42, taking a Patric Hornqvist pass out of the corner and just managed to get the puck just over Jimmy Howard. All three of his goals have come from the same area: right in front of the goaltender. It's not pretty, but it's effective
3rd Period
  • Both teams traded prime scoring chances early on, but Nashville finally broke through on the power play at 8:12, as the rebound of a Patric Hornqvist shot slid right to Jon Blum, who was right on the doorstep to Howard's right. He wasted no time putting the biscuit in the basket.
  • Detroit may be battered, but they're still a darn good team. Nashville had to fend off wave after wave of potent Red Wings offense, but they were up to the task, and David Legwand eventually iced the game with an empty net goal at 19:31, sealing the Preds fourth consecutive win over the Wings.

Other Thoughts
  • For only the second time in franchise history, the Preds will win a regular season series with Detroit. The first series win came in the 2008-2009 season.
  • What does Mike Fisher have to do to buy a goal? The guy was everywhere tonight making play after play and getting five shots on net, but nothing doing. Credit Jimmy Howard tonight for keeping Fisher off the score sheet, but Fisher has been working his butt off every since he arrived in Nashville, with little to show for it. 
  • Speaking of Jimmy Howard, what an impressive game from the Wings goaltender. Howard was neck-and-neck with Pekka Rinne all night long, making several impressive stops throughout the game.
  • Patrick Eaves can tell his kids that he took a Shea Weber bomb in the ankle and lived to tell about it. I'm surprised he was able to continue playing tonight. Gritty player.
  • Colin Wilson was a man on a mission tonight. He didn't score, but after scoring against Boston on Thursday night, he was doing everything he could to get the puck at the net. A very impressive effort from him tonight.
  • Shane O'Brien has caught a substantial amount of grief lately for his bonehead play, but that was nowhere to be seen tonight. He played just under twenty minutes tonight, and I can't recall one play that made me want to pull my hair out in frustration. Instead of taking penalties, he was drawing them. Perhaps his bad play over the past few weeks was just a rough patch.
  • How about Nick Spaling going 7-for-10 in the face-off department? Granted, five of those wins were against Zetterburg, who is not a center, but Barry Trotz had enough faith in him to take the face-off with 37.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Spaling won a huge faceoff, leading to Legwand's empty netter.
Nashville has no time to rest, as they fly north and pay a rare visit to Buffalo for a 4:00 central tilt with the Sabres. Will Trotz rest Rinne after tonight's big win, or will the Finn start his 21st consecutive game? Either way, two more points will be on the line.

The finish line is in sight. No excuses.

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