Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Nashville Predators held on to defeat the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 5-4 at Bridgestone Arena in front of the 14th sellout crowd of the season on Thursday night. It was a game that Nashville had in hand, but almost gave up.
Nashville and Anaheim came into Thursday night's game staring each other in the face in the Western Conference standings. The Predators had taken 2 of 3 games against the Ducks this year coming into the game, and this game was more important than ever before. Anaheim entered the fray with 87 points, one point behind the Predators. Jonas Hiller made his return to the lineup for Anaheim after missing 16 games with Vertigo. His return wouldn't go well. "We knew it was Hiller's first game back here, so we wanted to pepper him with some pucks and get traffic," said Predators forward Jordin Tootoo. They certainly did that.
In the 1st period, Nashville came out flying, and Sergei Kostitsyn tallied at 2:04 of the period to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. Nick Spaling decided that he would get in on the scoring action at 11:18 of the 1st period to put the Preds up 2-0. Just 19 seconds later, Kostitsyn tipped in a wrist shot from Patric Hornqvist for his second goal of the night to put the Preds up 3-0. "We knew it was going to be a big game for us. We need those points so we came out hard and scored a couple of goals," Kostitsyn said. Former Predators goalie Dan Ellis was then called into action for the Ducks. Anaheim would then respond, however, when Corey Perry put a rebound past Pekka Rinne to put the Ducks on the board and pull Anaheim within two. Nashville would lead 3-1 after the 1st period.
Andreas Lilja took a slashing penalty at 4:23 of the 2nd period, but Nashville was unable to capitalize. As he was getting out of the box, Lilja found the puck and had a breakaway. Rinne made a huge stop, and the crowd a Bridgestone Arena responded with one of their famous T.V. timeout standing ovations. Nashville got the frosty goal at 18:40 of the 2nd period on a weird play. Spaling dropped it back to Tootoo, who gave it to O'Brien. O'Brien then gave it back to Tootoo who shot it through a cluster of people and into the net to give the Predators a 4-1 lead.
David Legwand resumed the scoring for Nashville in the 3rd period after a Shane O'Brien Delay of Game penalty. Legwand came in shorthanded and wristed one past Ellis. On the goal, Ward was given a roughing penalty for making contact with Ellis after the goal was scored, which gave Anaheim a 5 on 3 power-play. Teemu Selanne would tally 10 seconds later to make the game 5-2 in favor of Nashville. The Ducks wouldn't go away, however, as Selanne struck again on another 5 on 3 power-play after two Predators hooking penalties. Kostitsyn and Legwand missed an opportunity for SK74 to get his hat trick goal on the empty net on multiple occasions, which could have cost them given what was about to happen. "It's not the time of year or the team that you want to do that against. They tried to feed him twice for the hat trick and it didn't work; they came back and countered and almost scored both times," said Coach Trotz. Anaheim pulled within one goal with 26.5 seconds left in the 3rd period when Perry flipped a puck up in the air that was kicked in by Nashville's Ryan Suter. However, the Ducks wouldn't have enough time to tie the game and Nashville escaped with the regulation win.
With the win, Nashville reaches the 90 point mark on the season. More importantly, it puts them three points ahead of Anaheim and four points ahead of Dallas.
Leftover thoughts from tonight's game:
Barry Trotz was heated in his press conference. He ripped the Preds and it almost seemed as if the Preds lost the game. He was particularly disturbed about how the game ended, saying "Our defense was atrocious in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period". It's clear that Trotz is hellbent on teaching Nashville how to play with, and maintain, the lead.
Nick Spaling, Jordin Tootoo, and Patric Hornqvist all finished with multi-point nights for the Preds.
Two Anaheim goals deflected off of Ryan Suter and into the net.
Pekka Rinne's spectacular performance in the first two periods saved the game for the Predators tonight. Anaheim could have easily scored 10 goals tonight if it weren't for Rinne's play.
Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Teemu Selanne had a big night for the Ducks. They kept the pressure on the Predators all night long and really pushed them every shift. Perry is making a late run at a possible Hart Trophy nomination.
This was a huge game for Nashville, but they don't have any time to get comfortable. They have an equally important game on Saturday night against Dallas. Nashville knows these games are important. "Obviously, playing against Anaheim and the next game against Dallas, these games are huge," said Pekka Rinne. As the season winds down, each game just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Posted by Robby Stanley at 5:45 PM