Sunday, April 5, 2009

Predators Live For Another Day

Jason Arnott, Pekka Rinne and Jordin Tootoo

Coach Barry Trotz

The Nashville Predators battled the Columbus Blue Jackets for sixty five minutes and it still took three rounds in a shoot-out for the Preds to claim a 5-4 victory. Two players that no one expected to play were the keys to the Preds win.

It was the seldom used Villie Koistinen that scored the only goal of the shoot-out to give the Predators the victory. Koistinen has only dressed for six game in the last two months.

Coach Barry Trotz was asked about his choice of Koistinen in the shoot out, “He’s been very good in the American League where he has played and he’s been good in the shootouts. He’s a really skilled guy. I thought that he went in today and played very well. You always talk about being ready for that moment when you might have to contribute and it’s been a tough year for Koistinen”.

Jason Arnott, who has been out for four weeks, surprisingly returned from concussion symptoms with a vengeance scoring two goals and assisting on a third. He did not make the decision to play until after this morning’s pre-game skate.

Arnott explained, “We lost last night, just from the looks on the guys faces, they were pretty tired, they’ve been through a lot and I told myself this morning when I woke up after the skate that I would consider really trying to play. I came in this morning and the guys still looked pretty tired so I was still determined to play and I talked it over with my wife and she kind of hinted against it but it’s a tough time of the year and I want to get back and help out the team as much as I can so I decided to play and I felt good this morning and in warm up so I did”.

Radek Bonk added a goal and an assist and drew a critical penalty that gave the Predators a four minute power play at the end of the third period and in overtime. Shea Weber also added his 22th goal to extend his record for goals by a Pred defenseman.

The game was a back and forth affair with Columbus getting an early lead at 6:04 in the first on a Rick Nash backdoor goal. Weber came back three minutes later to tie it up. Before the goal could be announced, Jiri Novotny scored his third goal of the year to close the first period with Columbus leading 2-1.

Columbus extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period on Rick Nash’s second goal. Jason Arnott stepped up his game and scored back to back goals at 11:14 and 16:16 to tied the game 3-3. The second goal was on the power play.

In the final period, Radek Bonk put the Predators ahead for the first time of the game at 10:12. The crowd really came alive at that point and cheered continuously through the TV time-out. Jason Williams, who has been a nuisance to the Preds, tied the game at the 15:43 mark.

Both teams played at a feverish pace trying to win in regulation and the Preds had the best chance when at 18:12 Fedor Tyutin nailed Radek Bonk in the face with his stick to give the Preds a four-minute power play that extended well into the OT period. No one scored at the end of the third period or in the extra five-minute stanza, which set up the shoot-out.

Barry Trotz asked goalie Pekka Rinne to make the call to shoot first or let Columbus go first. Pekka explained his philosophy, “I always tell coach that I want to start out defending in the shootout. I always want the other team to take that first shot if I get to choose. I try and trust myself to get a save so our guy can go to the other end and score, so he doesn’t have to feel the pressure. It was a huge stress reliever to save the three shots”.

In the shootout, Rick Nash, Jiri Novotny, and Jason Williams failed for Columbus. Nash’s attempt hit the crossbar and went straight down and Rinne admitted he was lucky to grab it and that it didn’t hit is pad and go in. Vern Fiddler and Steve Sullivan came up short for the Preds before Koistinen saved the day with his game winner.

Pekka Rinne admittedly did not have his best game. The Pred defense was burned on back door shots three times. The other goal was on a rebound that Pekka would not have allowed 99 of 100 times if faced with the situation again. Rinne did stop 19 of 23 Columbus shots and left his season record at 2-1 against the presumed Calder Trophy winner, Steve Mason.

Pekka summed up what the whole team was feeling about the race for the playoffs, “This is really going to come down to the wire. It is such an exciting time, but it is going to take everything we have to finish this regular season strong. This is why we play hockey, this is where everything is at stake and this is where everything counts. This is the best time in my life”. He further said, “It’s an exciting time, very nerve-racking but it’s a very rewarding time when you win games”.

The Predators are left with three games Tuesday versus Chicago at the Sommet Center, then games at Detroit and Minnesota Thursday and Friday to end the regular season.

The Predators are back in the top eight in the Western Conference with 86 points. St Louis also has 86 but would lose a tiebreaker since the Preds have one more win. Barry Trotz has been saying 90 points was what it would take since the All-star break and he stood by that tonight adding, “Maybe 91”.

I asked Coach Trotz how many more rabbits he had in his hat. He laughed and said, “I don’t know”. He hasn’t run out during the regular season since 2002-2003, so I’m betting he has a few left.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

1 comment:

The Hockey God said...

Great work again, Buddy!
And referring to Trotz's comment on the points... 91 is the target IMO. Should be interesting!