Thursday, March 22, 2012
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the hottest team in the NHL over the past few weeks. That trend didn't change on Thursday night as the Penguins blasted the Predators by a 5-1 score.
Pittsburgh came out flying in this game. Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead just 1:23 into the first period. He fired a slapshot that went off of Pekka Rinne's glove and into the net. It was definitely a shot that Rinne would like to have back.
The Penguins went onto score the next three goals of the game to take a 4-0 lead despite being outshot in every period of the game by the Predators. While Rinne didn't get a lot of help defensively, he did not play well in this game.
At 12:01 of the second period, Nashville finally got on the board. Alexander Radulov scored his first NHL goal in four years to spoil Pittsburgh's shutout hopes. He was able to gather the rebound of a shot from the point by Hal Gill and fire it into the net. It was very apparent that Radulov still needs to find a comfort level with playing an NHL-style game, but he still has the goal-scoring touch.
In the third period, Malkin added an insurance goal for the Penguins. It was a play that was very similar to his goal in the first period, only this time Rinne didn't get a piece of it. Malkin fired a slapshot with ridiculous accuracy that barely made it under the crossbar to give the Penguins a 5-1 lead that would never be relinquished. Pittsburgh clinched a playoff berth with the victory over the Predators.
Thursday night's game was the second game in a row that Nashville had outshot an opponent but lost by a wide margin. Defensively, the Predators have not been good over the past two games. Turnovers in their own zone have cost them, and Rinne has been average at best in between the pipes. With only eight games remaining to secure a playoff spot, the Predators have to start playing better.
Nashville will head back home for a brief visit to Music City when they take on the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. It will be the first game of a back-to-back set. After the game against Winnipeg on Saturday night, the Predators will travel to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Sunday. The Predators have a tough schedule coming up. Points aren't going to be easy to come by, so they will need a solid team effort on Saturday night.
Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Evgeni Malkin(PIT)
2. James Neal(PIT)
3. Chris Kunitz(PIT)
Official 3 Stars:
1. James Neal(PIT)
2. Evgeni Malkin(PIT)
3. Chris Kunitz(PIT)