Saturday, January 15, 2011

Crowd Inspires Predators to 3-2 Comeback Win over the Chicago Blackhawks

The Nashville Predators were inspired by their "Seventh Man" crowd to come from behind and defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in a 3-2 shoot out victory on Saturday night at the Bridgestone Arena.

Chicago forged ahead on goals by Tomas Kopecky and Viktor Stalberg and carried a 2-0 lead deep into the third period. The Preds showed signs of life when Jerred Smithson scored their first goal. Moments later, during a TV timeout the crowd spurred the team and Shea Weber to a goal three seconds after the next face off.

After a scoreless overtime period, Marcel Goc scored the only goal in the shoot out to seal the win for the Predators.

Pekka Rinne appeared to fight the puck for most of the game but came up big when the team needed him the most in the second and third periods. For the game, he stopped 31 of 33 shots and all three chances in the shoot out.

Corey Crawford appeared to be on the way to his third shut out in a row before the Preds scored. For the game, he stopped 24 of 26 Predator shots.

While there is no provision on the three stars of the game for the crowd, everyone gave full credit to the fans. Joel Ward said, "It was big. We knew we had to get one just to kind of get people on his feet and get going again. We did get one and then that transpired into a momentum swing."

Marty Erat added, "It's always great when you have the crowd behind you. If you don't have the edge the crowd makes you go every shift. It's great when you can feed off the crowd."

Before the puck drop, the noise generated by the Blackhawk fans in attendance during the national anthem was a preview of the intensity that was to come. The crowd was heavily represented with Chicago fans that gave the Bridgestone Arena the feel of the rivalry that has developed between the two teams.

Chicago got on the board first at 14:59 when Kopecky scored on a power play from the slot when he made a move toward the net past a pair of Preds and flipped the puck over Rinne. The Hawks man advantage came from Patric Hornqvist boarding Jack Skille at 13:15.

The first period ended with Chicago having a 9-7 shot advantage while Nashville led the Corsi 17-14. It was a fast moving period with only 17 stoppages.

The Blackhawks made it a 2-0 game at 4:29 in the second period when Chicago stole the puck on a Predator breakout and Stalberg hit Rinne in the back from behind the net and the puck fell into the goal.

The Blackhawks dominated the second period, out shooting the Preds 14-5 and leading the Corsi 19-10. Rinne appeared to really be fighting the puck and was not getting much help from his defenders in keeping shots off the net.

The Predators made several adjustments between the second and third periods and received a firm talk from Coach Barry Trotz.

As a result, the Predators came out playing more inspired hockey in the third period. At 9:46, the Preds got on the scoreboard when Nick Spaling sent a pass to Smithson who put the puck past Crawford to pull the Preds within one at 2-1.

The crowd had been laying dormant since the first Chicago goal. The TV time out at 7:43 produced a patented Predator fans standing ovation for the length of the time out. Immediately after play resumed, Weber put the puck into the net to tie the game 2-2. An assist should have been awarded to the sell out crowd of 17,113.

The statistics showed the Predators' improvement in the final period as they out shot the Hawks 13-7 and led the Corsi 22-13.

During the overtime, the Hawks out shot the Preds 3-1 that included a game saving breakaway stop by Rinne on Patrick Sharp with 1:28 left on the clock.

In the shoot out, Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp missed for the Hawks while Marty Erat was unsuccessful for the Preds.

Marty Erat returned after being out nine games with an upper body injury and played a surprising 16:10. "It felt good for a little bit but after that I was trying to keep it short and keep the energy high," said Erat. "In the third period it was tough to play."

Marek Svatos was out of the game and Trotz indicated that he was "nicked up" in the last game and would also be out of Sunday's contest.

Both teams left immediately after the game and will meet again tomorrow in Chicago at the United Center at 6 p.m. Central.

Notes: Phil Bredesen and his wife Andrea Conte left the Tennessee Governor's office today and noon and spent their fist night as a private citizen in eight years at the Predators game... A guy that was a dead ringer for Zach Garifalakis attracted plenty of attention in the stands.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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