Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blue Jackets Clip Preds 2-1

Highlights from NHL.com

The undermanned Nashville Predators gave all they had to give but lost 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

The Predator’s effort and desire could not be faulted but a couple of defensive breakdowns in front of goalie Pekka Rinne led to two goals that were more than the battered Predator line up could overcome.

The Predators got on the board first at 8:28 in the first period when Steve Sullivan slid a perfect pass through the slot to Cal O”Reilly who was skating toward the opposite side of the net. O’Reilly lifted the puck past Steve Mason for his second goal since his recall from Milwaukee last Thursday.

As the seconds ticked down in the first period some type of missed defensive assignment between Ryan Suter and Shea Weber led to R J Umberger scoring on a rebound to tie the game. Pekka Rinne’s stellar efforts in goal was the only thing that kept the game from getting away from the Preds early as the Jackets out shot the Preds 17-6 in the opening stanza.

The second period was scoreless with few scoring chances by either team. It was obvious that both teams were feeling the pressure of the situation as the Preds out shot the Jackets 9-5 for the period.

Pekka Rinne exhibited the most emotion yet in a Preds uniform when the defense allowed Raffi Torres to slip a rebound past the big goalie at 4:05 in to the third period. Rinne was obviously frustrated that he had stopped the initial shot by Michael Peca on a two on one breakaway but was unable to avoid the rebound goal. That goal would be the difference to give Columbus the victory and open a four-point bulge between the two teams.

After Torres’ goal, the hearts of Pred fans everywhere stopped beating when J P Dumont was violently boarded by a pair of Blue Jacket players and laid on the ice for several minutes. No penalty was called by the officials which was amazing considering the linesman was in the middle of the play. A couple of calls immediately went against Columbus that many would consider to be of the “make-up” variety. The Predators power play unit was unable to convert in spite of a couple of chances by Mike Santorelli and Joel Ward.

Thankfully J P Dumont was able to return to the ice as he appeared to have merely had the breath knocked out of him. The Predators played their heart out attempting to tie the game but had few scoring chances, as they were out shot 11-7 in the final period.

The goalie match up between rookie phenoms, Rinne and Mason was everything it was cracked up to be. On this night, Mason was tested less and did not have the breakdowns in front of him that Rinne had to endure. Rinne may have been the better of the two as he stopped 31 shots to Mason’s 21, but Pekka came up short in the win column, which is the only thing that mattered.

With the loss, the Predators remain in seventh place for the moment with 84 points, one point ahead of St Louis. Before the evening is over they potentially could fall to eight if Anaheim is able to defeat Edmonton in a late game.

The Predators injury situation worsened as Antti Pihlstrom left the game after three shifts with an “upper body injury”. With Captain Jason Arnott, David Legwand, Marty Erat, Ryan Jones and Wade Belak already on the shelf, losing Pihlstrom further compounds a dire situation. Early reports from radio man Tom Callahan on the post game show indicated Pihlstrom appeared “OK” on the bus.

The Predators returned to Nashville after the game to regroup before heading to Chicago for a Friday night match at the United Center. Then they will fly home for the final showdown of the season with the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

After winning three in a row and gaining points in their last eight games, the Predators will need wins in three of their last five games to get to the ninety point mark which should be good for a playoff berth.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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