Saturday, April 9, 2011

Preds Clinch Playoff Spot; Rinne Shines vs. Columbus

Nashville found themselves up 3-1 going into the 3rd period of Friday night's game against Columbus. Several times this season, they've seen that lead disappear and end up as a loss. They didn't let that happen on Friday night.

The Nashville Predators defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 4-1 score on Friday night to clinch their 6th playoff berth in 7 years. Patric Hornqvist scored two for the Preds, while Matt Halischuk and Sergei Kostitsyn added goals of their own.

Hornqvist got the scoring started in the 1st period on a fantastic individual effort from Mike Fisher. Fisher got around a Blue Jacket defenseman and made a pass from his back to Hornqvist between two defenders, and Hornqvist buried it to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.

In the 2nd period, Nashville came out flying for the first part of the period. Halischuk took a great pass from Jerred Smithson, and then made a gorgeous move on Columbus goaltender Steve Mason to put the Preds up 2-0. Less than a minute later, Hornqvist added another goal when he backhanded one past Mason. However, as we all know, the three goal lead is now the toughest lead in hockey. The Blue Jackets got on the board when Derick Brassard fired a slapshot past Pekka Rinne to make it 3-1 after two periods of play.

This time, the Preds weren't about to let another comeback happen. Kostitsyn put the game away for the Predators when the puck went through Mason and off of SK74's skate. Rinne made some huge saves in the period, and Nashville walked away with a 4-1 victory in front of the 16th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena.

Things to take away from Friday's game:

Pekka Rinne was phenomenal. He stopped 44 out of 45 Blue Jacket shots on the night, and some of them were truly unbelievable saves. Let's be honest, the only reason Nashville made the playoffs this year is because of Rinne. He has been far and away the best player on the team, and arguably the entire NHL. There's no player that matters more to his team than Rinne does. Period.

Matt Halischuk, once again, had himself a hell of a hockey game. He was hustling for the entire duration of the game, and was once again rewarded with a goal. The coaching staff is going to have a hard time sending him back down, or scratching him, if they start to get healthy bodies back.

Speaking of healthy bodies returning, Steve Sullivan returned to the lineup for the Predators on Friday night. He saw 10:05 of ice time, which is about what you'd expect for a player returning from the type of injury that Sullivan sustained. Overall, he didn't look too bad in his return.

Martin Erat did not play tonight for the Predators. There hasn't been word on the severity of his problem.

Nashville has a chance to clinch the 4th seed in the Western Conference with a win Saturday at St. Louis. Section 303 is having another road trip on Saturday to St. Louis for the game. Good luck guys and represent us well!

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