|(Don Smith/Getty Images)|
The 2012 Predators made a cameo appearance tonight in an effort that fans will want to see continue for games to come. Playing without two of their best offensive players, Erat and Hornqvist, Nashville was amazing defensively and were able to give San Jose their first los of the season. Rinne was phenomenal in the 1-1 game with 26 saves. Nashville goes home for a day tomorrow, before flying to St. Louis for yet another road game.
The first two periods we're played out in classic Preds fashion: to a 0-0 draw. But there was something different tonight. A certain bounce in everyone's step. They racked up 6 shots in the first. And although they took two penalties, they looked phenomenal killing them off. Hannan was back on the first line with Weber, Josi and Klein spent most of their time together, and Blum, Gill and Ellis rotated in and out.
Goaltending dominated in the first 40 minutes – especially Rinne who faced a lot of rubber. The only moment of significant interest was at the midway mark of the second, where a trickler snuck through Rinne's legs. The puck went off the far post and loitered in the crease. With Havlat being the nearest to the puck, it looked like a definite conversion. But the sharks forward mistakenly thought the puck was in and celebrated instead of burrying the tap in. The preds scrambled to shove it under Rinne, and although every body in the vicinity fell into the crease, the puck remained out.
Nashville was able to maintain it's bounce in the third, where they ran out of the gates and scored the first goal within a minute. It was a Wilson pass to Kostitsyn who made no mistake. The team even looked good afterwards as they played much more physically than in the first two frames, giving it back to San Jose.
Unfortunately their lack of discipline finally came back to haunt em, as Havlat made up for his earier blunder with a powerplay goal. The 1-1 score lasted to the end, again thanks to fantastic saves at both ends.
In OT the Predators carried the play, getting a 4-3 power play for the last 2 minutes. Ellis and Weber manned the points on the first unit and both got some good shots off. Niemi made his save of the game, kicking out a pad at the last minute to stop a one timer shot off a cross crease path. The Sharks held on for a shootout, but they we're unable to squeeze any of their shots passed Rinne. On the Preds side, Legwand was stopped, but Smith made a beauty move and roofed it for the only goal of the contest. "I had trouble last year with my move, but worked with a couple coaches to improve it," said Smith. "I wanted to come in with speed and noticed his right knee goes down, so I wanted go high on him."
Line Up Report
|#35 Pekka Rinne||26||27||.963||Win||65.00|
Predators Scratches: #7 #23 W Brian McGrattan and #10 Martin Erat (Lower Body)
Sharks Scratches: N, Petrecki, M Irwin, T Wingels
Pekka Rinne Shines: Rinne played unreal in what was, by leaps and bounds, his best game of the season. The Starter was clutch the entire game and bailed out the boys on a number of occasions. Rinne had to be big tonight, as the offensive talent of the San Jose Sharks was bound to get some chances through Nashville's defensive core. Not to mention that the Preds took 5 penalties against the 5th place, 30% efficiency San Jose Powerplay units. Also making Rinne's performance important was Niemi, at the other end, was also making some tremendous stops, including a massive pad save in Overtime to keep the game going.
One working aspect about Pekka's game was his playing the puck out of the net. He never looked quite right when he went around the net to help out his defenders. Those of us who watched his KHL games know that he struggled with it there from time to time. Let's hope this isn't a recurring theme in games to come.
Jonathan Blum sees Icetime: For the first time since December 30th 2011, Jon Blum saw the roster sheet with the Nashville Predators. Blum played quite well in his 11 minutes of time on ice. He even went took a quick jaunt on the preds second powerplay unit where he also did some good work. GIll's ice time was the most effected by the Preds 7th D-man. As he skated only 9 minutes.
McGratten has to be wondering if he will ever see the starting roster though. With Erat and Hornqvist out tonight, McGratten was probably expecting to play in San Jose, but instead Trotz made the call to go with a 7th defender.
Although it was a good game for Jon Blum I wouldn't expect him to up root anyone from their spot too quickly. The youngster played well but not eye-openingly enough to merit a full time position. Perhaps enough to inspire confidence for further minutes down the road though.
Goals and Assists
1-0 NSH: Sergei Kostitsyn – Colin Wilson, 0:59 in the 3rd
1-1 SJ: Martin Havlat – Scott Gomez, 13:39 in the 3rd
My Three Stars of the Game
1. Pekka Rinne (Surreal performance)
2. Craig Smith (Shootout winner)
3. Antti Niemi