Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Preds 6, Thrashers 3: So close I can taste it...

By the time the final horn sounded tonight, the Nashville Predators had avenged their December overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers in impressive fashion. Players not known for their offensive prowess were scoring goals, point streaks were extended, and two more points were earned, all but clinching another playoff berth.

1st Period
  • Good things can happen when you throw the puck at the net, take one. A Jordin Tootoo shot deflects over to Matt Halischuk, who showed impressive hand-eye coordinate when he spun around an backhanded a shot through the five-hole of Chris Mason at 5:24.
  • Good things can happen when you throw the puck at the net, take two. Martin Erat puts a simple shot on net, which Mason for some reason can't cover, and Tootoo cleaned up the garbage at 19:18.
  • The Sergei Kostitsyn Show continues on. With time winding time in the period, Patric Hornqvist found himself battling for possession, and ultimately poked the puck over to Mike Fisher. Fisher wasted no time in sending a backhander in front of the net, and there waited SK, who buried a shot upstairs with three seconds remaining on the clock.
2nd Period
  • Good things can happen when you throw the puck at the net, take three. Matt Halischuk wins possession of the puck behind the Atlanta net and promptly threw the puck in front, where the puck deflects off of Tim Stapleton's stick, a crashing Tootoo's skate, and past Mason, extending Nashville's lead to four at 1:56. Chris Mason's night was finished.
  • The rest of the period was uneventful, although there were a flurry of penalties in the second half of the period. Nashville had three PP opportunities, but failed to cash in, looking terrible in the process.
3rd Period
  • Good things can happen when you throw the puck at the net, take four. A Hornqvist pass to the blue line finds Cody Franson. Franson initially can't corral the rebound, but when he does, has enough sense to throw the puck on net. The puck bypasses everyone except Kostitsyn, who redirected the puck past Ondrej Pavelec for his second goal of the game at 2:28.
  • Atlanta finally got on the board at 38 seconds later, as Blake Wheeler showed off his speed, getting around Ryan Suter (!) and wristing a laser past Pekka Rinne.
  • Nashville's power play finally tallied at 6:18, as Mike Fisher scored by finishing off a tic-tac-toe play started by Hornqvist and Kostitsyn. A thing of beauty.
  • At 16:25, Wheeler tallied his second of the game, showing dogged determination while trying to obtain possession of the puck. When he finally did, he put a shot on net, which beat Rinne upstairs. Nashville's defense was good, but not good enough to stop Wheeler.
  • 45 seconds later, Atlanta cut Nashville's lead to three. A Evander Kane centering attempt was fended off by Rinne, but Nik Antropov beat Blake Geoffrion to the rebound and scored. I wondered why Geoffrion hadn't been getting much ice time as of late, and at least one of the reason became apparent on that play.
Other Thoughts
  • Earlier this season, Nashville seemed to struggle in the second period. Now, and more alarmingly, the third period has seen the Preds struggle, primarily with holding leads. Apparently, Game 5 isn't ringing loud enough in the player's heads.
  • A triumphant return to the lineup for Jordin Tootoo, who registered his first career three-point game after missing the last two games.
  • Players registering multi-point games tonight: Tootoo, Halischuk, Hornqvist, and Kostitsyn. Mike Fisher somehow didn't get an assist on Kostitsyn's first goal, or else he'd be on this list as well.
  • If Steve Sullivan and Cal O'Reilly were to return during the playoffs, the first two players I would scratch, not including JP Dumont, would be Geoffrion and Colin Wilson. Geoffrion's inexperience has me a little worried at the moment, and Wilson has just been underwhelming. Just my two cents.
Phase 1 of the mission is almost complete boys. A playoff berth may already to clinched by the time the Preds take the ice on Friday night in the home finale against Columbus. There's plenty to play for, as home ice advantage in the first round is still very much within reach.

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