Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Predators Fall to Ducks in Shootout

Shea Weber, Steve Sullivan and Pekka Rinne

Coach Barry Trotz

The Nashville Predators fell to the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in a game decided in a shootout. Teemu Selanne scored the only goal in the one on one shooting in the fourth round. Radek Bonk followed with a chance to continue to another round but failed to lift the puck over Duck Goalie J S Giguere’s pad ending the hard fought contest with the Ducks getting the extra point.

Anaheim’s victory moved the Ducks ahead of the Predators into eighth place in the Western Conference. Both teams have 78 points but the Ducks benefit from one additional win to move into the final playoff position.

The game was a tightly played game right from the opening puck drop with both teams playing a very guarded style, not wanting to make any mistakes. The first period was scoreless with the Ducks out shooting the Preds 5-4.

The second period produced more of the same type play with a few additional shots on goal. Anaheim finally broke the scoring drought at the 17:38 mark on Drew Miller’s third goal of the year which came on a wrist shot directly in front of the Predator goal leaving Pekka Rinne unable to defend. The Preds out shot the Ducks 9-8 for the period.

For most of the first two periods, the Predators were making a conscious effort to keep the puck in the Anaheim zone to limit the Duck’s scoring chances. Shea Weber commented on the game plan, “Obviously a skilled team like that you want to keep the pucks in your hand and play behind their defense and that’s going to limit their game”.

The third period produced more up and down action and more aggressive play on the Predator’s part. Shea Weber scored the game tying goal at the 4:12 mark on the power play when he blew the puck past Giguere on a slap shot from the right face off circle. The Preds continued to pepper the net out shooting the Ducks 15-4 for the period. Weber’s goal was his 20th, becoming the first Predator defenseman to crack the 20 goal mark.

The Sommet Center really had a playoff feel to it as the game progressed. During the game’s final TV time out, the crowd cheered nonstop for the entire stoppage in play urging the team onward. Barry Trotz acknowledged the crowds support in post game comments.

The game ended tied 1-1, setting up a brisk five minute overtime, where both teams had scoring chances but failed to bring home a victory.

In the shootout, the Preds elected for Anaheim to shoot first. The Ducks sent Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan on to the ice. The Preds countered with Vern Fiddler, Steve Sullivan and Marty Erat, all of which came up empty. Sullivan had the best opportunity to score but caught a post rather than net.

Teemu Selanne’s one on one game winning encounter with Pekka Rinne was something that Rinne had dreamed of as a young hockey player growing up in Finland. “He (Selanne) was always my hero, watching the national team games, he was a big idol for me. It’s been nice this year to face him a few times”, commented Rinne. I would imagine those youthful dreams had a different result.

Rinne played an excellent game stopping 18 of 19 Anaheim shots. Defensively, the Predators played one of their best games of the year, having few breakdowns that have left net minders vulnerable to odd man situations.

Barry Trotz remained positive after the loss stating, “It’s about collecting points. Obviously we would like two, and we didn’t get that, but every night that you get points, that’s what you need”. The Predators have posted points in their last five games, but the last three games have been overtime loses.

As the Predators prepare for Thursday’s encounter with the San Jose Sharks the players know what has to be done. Steve Sullivan put it in perspective, “It’s a deadlock race and we’re right in the thick of things so we’re excited to have this opportunity with nine games to go”.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. Thursday and the lineup should be similar to the one on the ice tonight. It is doubtful that injured Predators Jason Arnott, Ryan Jones, and Wade Belak will be able to return. Having Radek Bonk play his first game in over a month was a boost but the team remains without key components that are critically needed for the nine game stretch run.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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