Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pred's Wild Ride Ends in Shoot Out Win

The Nashville Predators gave their fans the wildest emotional roller coaster ride in team history in route to a 4-3 shoot out win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Basically, in a win or end the season situation, the Preds allowed the Wings to stick a knife in the Nashville fan’s hearts and then they were able to kiss the wound and made it all better in the end.

This win was as inspiring as Tuesday’s loss to Chicago was demoralizing. I have never seen a team come back at a critical time in a do or die situation quite like I witnessed tonight.

The Predators appeared to be down for the count with the Wings ahead 3-1 with less than seven minutes left in the game. Jason Arnott brought the Preds within a goal when he scored an unassisted goal off of his own rebound to give the Preds a faint hope at 13:19 in the third period.

Things really looked bleak when Jason Arnott was called for holding with 4:05 left in the game. Fortunately, Niklas Kronwall took down Ryan Suter on a tripping call 42 seconds into the Wings power play to give the Preds some four on four time leading up to one last power play atempt. With time winding down and the Preds desperate for a goal, Barry Trotz pulled Pekka Rinne to create a six on four situation and J P Dumont scored on a mad scramble in the Detroit blue ice to tie the game 3-3 with a minute left in the contest.

Overtime produced two shots by the Preds and a single shot by the Wings and incredible save by Pekka Rinne that sent the game to the shootout. A single point would have done little to help the Pred’s cause, so a win was imperative.

In the shootout, Detroit played into the Predators hands by giving Pekka Rinne his wish of always wanting to go last. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk missed on their attempts for the Wings and Vern Fiddler and Steve Sullivan failed to tally for the Preds.

In the third round, Jiri Hudler scored for Detroit placing Ville Koistinen in a score or go home position. For the third time in four shoot out attempts this season, Koisty came through to extend the match to round four.

Dan Cleary failed to score for the Wings, giving the Preds a shot at the win. Captain Jason Arnott was sent to the ice for his first shoot out attempt as a Predator. He drove on Goalie Chris Osgood and slipped a shot through Osgood’s five hole to claim victory and set off a massive celebration by the Preds on Detroit’s home ice.

Detroit’s first three goals were scored by Niklas Kronwall, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Johan Franzen, The Predators first goal was by Scotty Nichol.

Pekka Rinne was once again the star of the game for the Predators. He stopped 23 of 26 shots and kept the Preds within striking distance with his outstanding play.

The Predators won the season series with Detroit for the first time in franchise history going 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Detroit.

The win gave the Preds 88 points with Friday’s game at Minnesota being the only game left on their schedule. St Louis and Anaheim also are at 88 points but each have two games left. There are several scenarios that could develop but the simplest would be that if the Preds win on Friday and St Louis loses in regulation against Columbus, the Preds would make the playoffs. If the opposite occurs, the Predators season would end abruptly. The key will beat Minnesota and force the other two contenders to win out to get into the playoffs.

Leaving the Sommet Center on Tuesday night I was finding it hard to believe that would be the last game of the year, but there appeared little hope for a playoff appearance and another home game. I made a brief business trip to New Jersey, which helped distract me from the pain of an all but sure early end to the season. I am thankful that the Predators believed in themselves and played as well as they did against the Wings to extend the playoff race for another day.

The Predators have not played a game that did not have playoff implications since March 2003 and will not have to do so this year either. I’ve forgotten what a meaningless game looked like and have no desire to see one again this year, or in the years to come.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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