Friday, February 20, 2009

Predators Gain a Point in OT Loss vs Blues

Postgame footage - Pekka Rinne, Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott, Marty Erat, and Barry Trotz

The Nashville Predators limped home from Detroit and managed to salvage a point out of a game that started promisingly and ended with the St Louis Blues winning 2-1 in overtime.

Both teams were coming off deflating losses from Wednesday night’s actions. The Predators were steamrolled in Detroit while the Blues were beaten in Columbus.

The Predators first period was as good a period of hockey as they have played since last Saturday against Boston. Steve Sullivan scored at the 9:59 mark in the first to give the Preds an early lead. Sullivan told the story of the goal, “J P did a great job of keeping the puck in at the half wall and dumping the puck off to Arnie and I was just coming down the slot and Arnie made a great pass to me and I just kind of redirected it and it was a bang-bang play and I don’t think Mason had time to see it or react to it and it went in”.

The other highlight of the game for the Predators was the never-ending outstanding play of Goaltender Pekka Rinne. For the game he stopped 34 of 36 shots including six of seven shots in an incredible barrage during 2:52 of overtime play. There were numerous saves where Rinne had been left hanging by himself in odd man situations.

St Louis’s regulation goal by Andy McDonald came at 14:06 in the second period and was a result of a misplay by Dan Hamhuis that left Rinne by himself and virtually hand cuffed to stop the goal. The Blues overtime goal, a few seconds after the end of a St Louis Power play, was also an odd man situation where two Pred players collided momentarily leaving Rinne vulnerable to the point blank wrister of Keith Tkachuk at 2:52 into the overtime period that ended the game.

The game was probably the most physical game around the Predator net that Pekka Rinne had ever experienced. He was crashed into repeatedly and delivered a shove early in the game to Brad Winchester. Rinne should have been credited with a hit late in the contest when he rammed a Blues player into the board behind the net. Jason Arnott explained his view after the game, “It wasn’t like they were trying to run Peks, there were a lot of loose pucks around the net”.

The overtime loss left the Predators in 12th place with 58 points four points behind eight place and the final playoff position. This was the first time this season in 14 games where the Predators were leading after the first period that they lost the game. The Preds were the last team standing in that arena.

The players as well as coach Bary Trotz are insistent that they feel they are still in the thick of the race and are positive that they can complete another playoff run.
Steve Sullivan said “We wanted two points but got one so we move on and get ready for the next one”. Captain Jason Arnott added, “It was a tough loss, but we’ll take the point. We still have time, we just have to battle”. Barry Trotz added, “It was a playoff atmosphere, we’ll take them on again Saturday”.

Coming into the game, I had a feel that this would be a critical turning point in the season. If the Preds rebounded with a win, they would still be in the chase. If they had played as poorly as they had against Ottawa and Detroit, it would be time to turn out the lights. With a point, it probably falls somewhere in between. With 23 games left they will need 16 wins to get to 90 points so there is little opportunity for another off night for the rest of the season. The next opportunity will be Saturday night in St Louis against the Blues, once again.

The Commish NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville for the day. He met with Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and hosted his weekly radio show from the Nashville XM Radio studio located in the Sommet Center. He also held a 32 minute press conference prior to the Preds- Blues game. A full video will be placed on on Friday.

Nickelback in the House Canadian Rock band Nickelback attended the game and received a locker room tour after the game hosted by David Legwand.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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