The Nashville Predators were soundly beaten by a solid Minnesota Wild team by a score of 6-2 Saturday night at the Sommet Center. The combination of the Wild’s trap and the complete ineptness of the officiating crew made for a long evening for the Predator faithful. The discussion that follows may sound like sour grapes but I can assure you it is not. Had the Wild not clearly been the better team tonight then it would be sour grapes but my concern is that any paying fan of NHL hockey clearly does not deserve what happened tonight.
Rarely have I seen an officiating crew in any sport botch a game as much as was done in the Preds- Wild contest. Things headed south at 6:41 in the first period when Craig Weller slammed Ryan Suter who was touching up an already signaled icing call which is not supposed to be allowed under the new rules this season. Shea Weber came to Suter’s rescue and in the process received a major and a minor penalty while the offending Weller only received the major. Basically, the Wild ended up on a power play instead of the Preds. To make matters worse, Ryan Suter was subsequently called for unsportsmanlike conduct for using a few choice words (think about the movie Bull Durham) with the officials as he explained how bad they had screwed the call.
The Wild on the ensuing 5 on 3 power play took 15 seconds to score. Thirty five seconds later they made it 2-0 scoring on the 5 on 4 power play. These were the first two of a total of five power play goals by the Wild on the night. In all they were 4 of 8 on the 5 on 4 and 1 of 3 on the 5 on 3 power plays. Coming in to the game the Predators had killed 20 straight penalties so as they say the Hockey Gods got even with them all in one night.
The Predators were whistled for a total of 16 penalties to the Wilds 9. The calls were very inconsistent from start to finish and the officials appeared oblivious to the missed calls on the Wild that were shown on the Jumbotron. The officials were so out of touch that at the end of the Nichol – Veileaux fight they put the Wild player into the Predator penalty box.
As for the game itself, the highlight for Predator fans was the release of pent up emotion that occurred when there were three good fights in a six second period in the second period starting at the 6:50 mark with a skirmish between Scotty Nichol and Stephane Veilleux. Three seconds later was the fight everyone was waiting for between the newly acquired Wade Belak and the big thug Derek Boogaard who only registered the one shift and 3 seconds of ice time on the evening. It’s good work if you can find it I guess. At 6:56 Jordan Tootoo and Craig Weller went at it full out to complete the hat trick of fights. Exclusive video from PredsOnTheGlass (above) captured the fights from the stands for your enjoyment.
After the fights, the Predators pulled within 2 on a really nice goal by Jason Arnott who scored on a nifty feed from J P Dumont. There was really a feeling in the building at that point that the Predators could make a comeback but a goal by Mikko Koivu sent the Preds three down again five minutes later. A David Legwand goal in the third brought the Preds back within two but three unanswered goals by the Wild sealed the deal for the win.
One of my personal highlights for the evening was seeing penalty killing specialist Greg Zanon lay down in front of a slap shot to block it with less than a minute left in a game where the Preds were down by four. Anyone that will play to the final horn that hard after all the team had been through with the Wild and the officials gets a special “Hockey Hero” award from PredsOnTheGlass. One thing you can never say about the Nashville Predators is that the don’t give a good effort even when they aren’t playing or executing well. That is the hallmark of a Barry Trotz coached team and is what keeps the Preds fans coming back for more.
One final thought… For the first time in Nashville since the start of the franchise at the end of the game the fans booed the officials and showered the ice with all types of cups, bottles and other debris. Nashville fans are usually better than that but the gravity of the officiating led to this unusual behavior. We will give the fans a mulligan this time but it’s not something I hope to see again.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass