Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Predators Outlast LA for Win
The Nashville Predators didn’t have their best game defensively but managed to play just well enough to defeat the LA Kings 4-3 Monday night at the Staples Center.
Ryan Jones had the game winner with 2:18 in the game to put the Preds ahead for the final time. The game was in question until the final seconds as the Kings took advantage of a questionable Steve Sullivan interference call with 1:31 remaining to play the final minute with a six on four advantage. Having failed earlier in the game, the Predators penalty kill unit held firm in the end to seal the victory.
The Kings scored first in the game, taking the lead at 14:42 in the first period on a Dustin Brown missed shot that hit the left pole, crossed the crease, and was knocked in on the rebound by Anze Kopitar. Pekka Rinne made an incredible attempt to stop the puck but it still managed to slip across the line off of his extended left leg. The whole play was set up by a turnover in the Pred's offensive zone and the ensuing odd man rush.
Shea Weber scored his record breaking 19th goal with 15 seconds left in the period to tie the game. His goal broke the franchise high for goals by a defenseman.
The Kings started the second period by being called for a hooking penalty on a move by Wayne Simmonds at the 25 second mark. The ensuing power play produced a Joel Ward goal at 1:24 to put the Preds ahead.
Another Pred's defensive breakdown led to the Kings second goal on a power play at 16:25 in the second on a shot by Edward Purcell. Steve Sullivan came back with a goal to retake the lead 1:45 later to end the second period with the Predators holding a 3-2 lead.
In the third, at 9:53 the Kings were able to tie the game once again when the Pred's defense allowed Pekka Rinne to be completely screened on a shot by Michal Handzus. The game remained tied until Ryan Jones picked up a rebound and made a nice move in front of Kings goalie, Erik Ersberg for the game winner.
This was another Predators victory that was difficult to watch. Not only was it a late night for the viewing faithful, there was never a reason to feel confident or comfortable in the outcome. Basically, the Predators played just well enough to win. It was not one of their better games and would have not had the same outcome with stiffer opposition.
The victory moved the Predators into seventh place in the tightly contested Western Conference race. The loss for the Kings may have put to rest any playoff hopes for this year as they are now five points out of the playoffs and have a murderous schedule down the stretch.
There were several unsung heroes in the game for the Predators including David Legwand, filling in for the injured Jason Arnott, Dan Hamhuis with six shots, Jordan Tootoo with five shots, and the entire team for the group effort in out-hitting the Kings 30-26.Jerred Smithson also carried the load in the face off circle winning 13 of 21 draws.
Pekka Rinne was outstanding in stopping 26 of 29 Kings shots, many after defensive break downs that left him as the last man standing between the Kings and the net. Joel Ward continued his steady development as a two way player and should have received a star of the game.
J P Dumont left the game early after two assists on a non call where he was clearly boarded into the wall. It appears that it was not serious and that he should not miss any games. The status of Captain Jason Arnott and Radek Bonk is still unclear as both are on the trip and hoping for a return.
The Predators will return to action Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks before traveling to San Jose on Thursday to complete the four game swing to the coast. Points in both games are critical as the Preds will be off for four days over the weekend with no chance to add to their point total.
Credit needs to go to Barry Trotz and his staff as well as the players who have risen from the dead in late January to be in the thick of the wild and woolly Western Conference playoff picture. A win like this one in LA really makes you think that this may be a team of destiny. Maybe Barry does have another rabbit in his hat this year. Time will tell.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass