The Nashville Predators played their best period of hockey this season scoring four goals to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 in Nashville Tuesday night. Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal with 5:03 left in the game.
The game started out as tight contest with both teams skating well in the first period, which ended in a scoreless tie. The Hawks out shot the Preds 9-7 for the period while the Predators managed to kill off the only two Chicago power plays of the evening.
The Predators returned to the ice in the second period a different team. As we have seen in other games their play was inconsistent and without the same enthusiasm shown in the initial period. Chicago capitalized with two goals at 6:05 and 8:57 by Dustin Byfuglien and Martin Havlat to go ahead 2-0. Many fans that had seen this routine before were checking their watches and thinking about an early exit.
Captain Jason Arnott slowed the exodus with a goal at 14:57 to pull within one. The celebration was short lived as Patrick Kane answered with one of his own 1:06 later in the period.
The third period was all Predators. At 2:10 David Legwand was by himself by the net and mis-struck his shot causing an odd knuckleball type flip of the puck that Cristobal Huet was unable to respond to. At 5:11 J P Dumont scored a rare power play goal to tie the game 3-3 and bring the crowd back to life.
The teams skated fairly evenly until Joel Ward slipped a loose puck past Huet with 5:03 remaining in the contest. A few minutes earlier, Ward had missed an opportunity on a shot on the open side of the net when he overplayed the puck that only needed to be urged into the goal. Following a Chicago interference call, Shea Weber sealed the deal with the Preds second power play goal of the game at 17:10. Marty Erat had three assists during the third period.
This was the first time that the Preds had scored the five goals required for fans to receive free Frosty’s since the 5-3 win over the Penguins on January eight.
Pekka Rinne continued his streak of solid goaltending stopping 29 of 32 Chicago shots. While seemingly not at his best during the second period, he was outstanding in the final stanza stopping all 11 Hawk shots, many where no one else was here to help.
The fans gave the team a huge boost with a standing ovation during a TV time out in the third. What became a tradition during last year’s playoff run has been rarely seen during this roller coaster ride type season. Both the players and Barry Trotz commented on the fans support during the post game interviews.
After two seemingly devastating losses to Ottawa and Detroit lat week the Predators have picked up 5 of 6 points in the last three games. The win left the Preds with 62 points in 11th place, 3 points behind a four way tie for seventh at 65 points.
The Predators continue with the second game of their five game home stand Thursday when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes who lay three points behind the Preds in 14th place.
New Winger? Defenseman Ville Koistinen suited up as a winger and played seven shifts opposite Wade Belak in an odd makeshift role. Ryan Jones, who was roughed up during last weeks losses, was a healthy scratch. The other scratch was Radek Bonk who was injured Saturday and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.
New Owner Word circulated on Tuesday that wealthy Canadian Brett Wilson was potentially buying a small share of the Predators, rumored to be 5% or less. This is not related to the share of the team tied up in bankruptcy that was formally owned by “Boots” DelBiaggio, Wilson and majority owner David Freeman have had other business partnerships including joint ownership of the Jackson, TN minor league baseball team and a soccer team in England. Freeman had indicated last week that he and co-owner Herb Fritch had guaranteed 60 to 70 million dollars recently related to the DelBiaggio situation so this may only be a matter of bringing in fresh capitol. It certainly is no threat to the team moving from Nashville as has been the case in the past involving Jim Ballsille,
Good Sport Award In an unexpected twist, for the first time in eleven years I won an in game contest taking home a prize pack in a drawing for the Good Sport designated driver contest. This proves that staying clear of the demon alcohol can pay off. Thanks to Budweiser for their sponsorship of the contest.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass