Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NHL Parity Reigns as Predators Collapse Late in St Louis

In typical “what goes up must come down fashion” the recent six game rocket ship that the Nashville Predators were riding ended in a massive crash in the last four minutes of their game with the St Louis Blues last night. It seems to be the way of the NHL Western conference where nine points separates third and last that on any given night any team can reign supreme.

The Predators and Blues were tied with less than four minutes left in the contest. The Blues scored two quick goals 45 seconds apart and the Preds were subsequently slam dunked with an empty netter in the waning seconds of the game.

The game was a spirited tussle and the Predators seemed to be the better team on the ice until a hat trick of penalties got them in trouble late in the second period. Leading, 2-1 with seven minutes left in the second period the Preds were whistled with back to back penalties to Jordan Tootoo and Vern Fidler. Shortly thereafter, Dan Hamhuis was called for high sticking on a controversial exchange with Keith Tkachuk which could have gone either way. With a delayed call the Blues scored quickly with a six on three advantage. They followed with another goal to go ahead 86 seconds later.

Once the Predators returned to even strength, they responded quickly with a goal by J P Dumont to even the game at 3-3 but it was down hill from there. In the third period the Preds were out shot 7-1. Pekka Rinne made several excellent saves to keep it close during the Preds offensive palsy but finally gave in to the Blues fourth period pressure.

Barry Trotz was clearly frustrated with the collapse feeling that they should have salvaged at least a point when they were tied with four minutes left. The loss was the first for Goalie Pekka Rinne who had been named the NHL’s first star of the week for the prior week. His shutout streak reached 122.57 before B J Crombeem scored the first of his three goals on the evening.

Lost in the post collapse shuffle was Antti Philstrom’s first NHL goal that came on a power play halfway into the first period.

The Predators have no time to mope as they return to action tonight in Nashville at the Sommet Center against the Vancouver Canucks. They will face a Canucks team that is without star netminder Roberto Luongo who continues to recover from a groin injury. It is anticipated that Dan Ellis will return in net as he was able to serve as the Preds backup Monday night. The Predators returned emergency call up Drew McIntyre to Milwaukee earlier in the day. I anticipate a much better effort in front to the home crowd on what is destined to be a rainy night in Nashville.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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