The playoffs are almost here and Smashville can feel it. It’s time for winning playoff hockey to be played.
On Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators played well enough defensively to escape from the Minnesota Wild with a 2-1 victory, which means two much-needed points in the standings. Nashville is currently playing a game of back-and-forth with Detroit and Chicago for the four seed in the West (which would mean home-ice in the first round).
Minnesota has already been eliminated from playoff contention, but you couldn’t tell from watching them play on Tuesday. They hustled down ice and still haven’t quit on the season. We all know that a team in their position simply relishes the opportunity to play spoiler to playoff-bound teams.
Therefore it came as no surprise that this was a hard-fought game, featuring defense and toughness. Things got ugly early.
The first period featured a combined 10 penalty minutes between both teams. Despite this, the period ended up remaining scoreless. For the Predators, Ryan Suter got two minutes for cross-checking, Brandon Yip got two minutes for roughing and David Legwand got two minutes for interference.
In the second period, however, was an about-face: multiple goals were scored, and there were no penalties. At 12:31 Gabriel Bourque gave Nashville the 1-0 lead in the game with his seventh goal of the season, with an assist from Nick Spaling.
The lead would not last for too long, as Minnesota tied the game 1-1 with just over two minutes remaining in the period with goal number 23 on the season by Dany Heatley, which was assisted by Nate Prosser and Mikko Koivu.
While there was no scoring in the third period, there was another rash of penalties, including another six total minutes by the Predators alone. The most egregious penalty by Nashville was the tripping penalty on Andrei Kostitsyn that occured at the 19:48 mark in the period…which meant the penalty would carry over into overtime.
Thankfully Nashville was able to survive the penalty, although there were a couple of shots on goal that came close, and the overtime period also played out to be scoreless.
Enter one of this season’s most popular players for the Predators: the recently added Alexander Radulov. After two misses from Minnesota on shootout attmepts, Radulov hit the lone score in the shootout that would propell the Predators to victory after Minnesota missed one last time.
Anders Lindback had an outstanding game, getting 25 saves on 26 attempts, while Nicklas Backstrom had a great game for Minnesota, getting 23 saves on 24 attempts.
The Nashville Predators will face the Dallas Stars in Nashville on Thursday night. Currently the Predators are sitting in fourth in the stadings, one point ahead of Detroit and two points ahead of Chicago. Nashville has just two games remaining in the season and Detroit and Chicago will face each other to end the season.