Friday, February 13, 2009

Predators Rise from the Dead to Win in Shoot-out

Postgame Remarks from Steve Sullivan, Pekka Rinne, Joel Ward and Barry Trotz

For 59 minutes and 57 seconds the crowd of 14,307 had few reasons to cheer for the Nashville Predators. The St. Louis Blues had frustrated the Predators with tenacious defense and solid goaltending. When Captain Jason Arnott snuck a shot past former Pred goalie Chris Mason with three seconds remaining, there was bedlam in Music City.

The Predators and Blues were unable to settle the match in the five minute overtime period forcing the game to a shootout. Steve Sullivan was the Preds second shooter and flipped a wrist shot past Mason on his glove side for the only goal in the shootout. Seconds later, Pred goalie, Pekka Rinne stopped T J Oshie to seal the victory and give the Predators two points in the 4-3 win that they desperately needed.

Sullivan was pleased after the game stating “I’m not afraid to say that throughout all of the years, we’ve done a lot of shootouts and we try to avoid Mason in practice as much as possible. To go against him was a little bit of a treat… glad I was able to sneak one by him. He’s very good at them.” When asked if it was a traditional Sully shootout move, he joked “I don’t have too many moves, you got to stick with what you can do”.

The rest of the game leading up to the dramatic ending was not pretty for Predator fans. Before Kevin Klein’s wrap-around goal at 7:55 in the third period the crowd was restless and probably was one St Louis goal away from a mass exodus. After out shooting the Blues 14-7 in the first period shots were few and far between for the home team in the second as the Blues out shot the Preds 13-5. Three minor penalties also helped keep the Preds in more of a defensive mode.

For the game, the Predators actually sent plenty of pucks toward the net as they ended up with 34 shots, 11 misses and 22 blocks by a hustling Blues defense. As has been the case for most of the year, the puck could not find its way to the back of the net.

Defensively the Predators were inconsistent. Trotz said it best, “I didn’t think our defense managed the puck particularly well, as well as they can. At the same time, there were a couple of times when our forwards didn’t give them a chance either.”

Pekka Rinne was solid in the overtime and the shootout but did not have his best game during regulation. One troubling aspect has been an increase in the number of rebounds allowed in the last two games, giving the opposition too many second chance opportunities.

When questioned about Rinne’s play Barry Trotz defended his goalie saying “I wouldn’t say he looked shaky on the second goal, it was a really well placed shot. The guy comes out of the corner and looks like he was about to fall and he roofs it. Usually guys aren’t able to roof it on the way down so Peks was trying to seal the bottom of the net of and the guy went upstairs. I didn’t think he was shaky at all.”

After games with Boston on Saturday and Ottawa Monday, the Preds make a quick trip to Detroit on Wednesday and return to play the Blues here again next Thursday. They then travel to St Louis on Saturday for the third game in 10 days with the Blues.

When asked about the three games in ten days with the Blues, Barry Trotz said “It’s going to be intense, they’re trying to claw their way back in this race and we are a rival and play them three times and they are a good hockey team. There isn’t a bad hockey team in the Western Conference, every game is a battle. They play a relentless fore checking style of game, they forced some turnovers and we made some turnovers, they are a tough team to play against.”

The win gave the Predators 55 points kept them within four points of the final playoff position. St Louis picked up a point in the loss and is now four points behind the Predators.

At years end, if the Predators do make the Playoffs, this game will be considered a key turning point in the season. It is probably a game that they didn’t “deserve” to win but by perseverance and never giving up, they put themselves in a position where they were still within a single goal when Arnott scored at the end of the game. While the crowd was ready to throw in the towel, the team never did.

For 11 years Barry Trotz has never received the recognition that he deserves for instilling the “never say die” attitude in his teams. He has consistently done more with whatever talent he had than many other coaches who have won simply because they had a team full of talented players.

Bonk Bonked? Radek Bonk suffered an “upper body injury” in the first period after playing only three shifts. Trotz indicated that he didn’t think it was serious but that he would be reevaluated on Friday.

O’Ree Honored Willie O’Ree, who was the first black NHL player, was honored before the game as part of the Predator’s “Hockey is for Everyone” Night. Joel Ward took the honorary face-off drop from O’Ree for the Preds. After the game Ward called him “the Jackie Robinson of hockey” and said, “It was obviously a big moment for me in a game I love so much”.

Belak return Wade Belak returned from his five game absence due to a shoulder injury just in time to take on the Blues who are a team that doesen’t mind dropping the gloves. At 5:35 into the game Belak had an opportunity to do his thing after he was challenged by Cam Janssen over a clean hit that Belak had made on a Blues player. Belak clearly came out on top in the tussle.

Scratches Jordan Tootoo is still recovering from the cut on his hand and is day to day. Ville Koistinen and Patrik Hornqvist were both healthy scratches for the Predators.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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