Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Preds Dominate Atlanta; Win 6-3

Coming into Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators were in position to add another postseason chapter to their history. With a win, and a Dallas loss, the Predators would clinch their 6th playoff berth in 7 years. They got the win against Atlanta by a 6-3 score in front of 16,756 at Bridgestone Arena. All that needed to happen after that was a Blue Jackets victory over the Stars. Unfortunately for the Preds, Dallas was able to defeat Columbus by a 3-0 score. That means the Predators will have to wait another day to clinch a playoff berth.

In the 1st period, Nashville would strike first when Matt Halischuk scored a gorgeous goal at 5:24 of the period. Jordin Tootoo attempted a pass that was deflected into the air, and Halischuk scored when the puck hit the ice on a beautiful no-look backhander. Tootoo would score at 19:18 of the period to put the Preds up 2-0. Atlanta goalie Chris Mason initially stopped a Martin Erat shot, but the pucked squirted through and Tootoo put it home. Sergei Kostitsyn would put the Preds up 3-0 at 19:58 of the period when he put it past Mason after Patric Hornqvist centered the puck. It was a wild ending to the 1st period, and Nashville had all of the momentum. Of course, the Predators have had trouble keeping the pace of play in their favor after jumping out to a lead, so Barry Trotz's message to the team was very simple. "Just keep going," said Predators centerman Mike Fisher. And, for the most part, the Predators would keep going.

Tootoo picked up right where he left off in the 2nd period, scoring the frosty goal at 1:56 of the 2nd period to put the Preds up 4-0. Halischuk flipped a pass from the corner and Tootoo swatted it in mid-air past Mason. After that goal, Mason was pulled from the game, and Ondrej Pavelec assumed the goaltending duties for Atlanta. The two teams would trade penalties for the remainder of the 2nd period, but the score would remain 4-0 after two.

A lot of emphasis has been put on finishing the games for the Predators this year. They somewhat did that on Tuesday night. Kostitsyn scored his 2nd goal of the night at 2:28 of the 3rd period, and Colin Wilson followed that up by winning a fight. However, the Thrashers would score Blake Wheeler beat Pekka Rinne high on the glove side at 3:06 to make the score 5-1. Eric Boulton took a roughing penalty on Tootoo, and Fisher scored on the ensuing power-play to give the Predators a 6-1 lead. Wheeler would add another goal for Atlanta to make the game 6-2, and then Antropov would pull the Thrashers within 3 with 2:50 remaining. but that would be all she wrote for the Thrashers.

Nashville walked away with a 6-3 victory, but was still outscored in the 3rd period by a 3-2 score. Jordin Tootoo had some thoughts on their recent 3rd period struggles. "We've been playing nonchalant kind of hockey in the 3rd, and that's going to come to bite our asses in the end here". However, Coach Trotz wasn't very concerned with the 3rd period tonight, saying "I got away from matchups and defense pairings. We were playing a lot of the kids and trying to spread the ice time. When we were up 6-1, I was just trying to make sure that no one was overextended".

Tootoo and Halischuk both had career nights. Tootoo registered 3 points on the night(2g,1a) and Halischuk had 2 points of his own(1g,1a). Kostitsyn and Hornqvist also had 3 point efforts on the night for the Predators.

It's possible for the Predators to clinch on Thursday night without them playing. If Dallas were to lose on Thursday against Colorado, the Preadators would clinch. Regardless of what the Stars do, if the Predators obtain at least one point in their final two games, they will clinch. Coach Trotz doesn't appear to be worried about it, saying "All I know is that we'll know something on Sunday. We don't have far to go." Only two games remain for the Predators in the regular season. The home finale is Friday night!

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