Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, Pekka Rinne, SHea Weber, and Cal O'Reilly
Coach Barry Trotz
The Nashville Predators overcame a gritty Los Angeles Kings team to win in overtime by a 4-3 margin. Steve Sullivan buried a power play slap shot from the left face off circle 3:41 into the extra period to clinch the victory, giving the Preds a 4-0 sweep of the Kings on the season.
The Predator fans came to the game in mass expectation that the Predators would win. The sellout crowd was electric right from the start. The “Earth Hour” generated early start time seemed to add to the excitement.
During the game tornado sirens raged outside the Sommet Center as the area was surrounded by threats of tornadoes, hail, and torrential down pours. Predator fans were unphased despite thousands of tweets and texts warning of high danger.
Los Angeles came into the game with nothing to lose while the Predators were fighting for their lives in the Western Conference playoff race. Barry Trotz said, “LA is a game that you really get nervous about. LA has a young team that’s playing very well. I’ve been watching them the last few games. They play with a lot of structure. They are a very hard team because they deflect the attack, a defense first kind of team. They have a real good team concept and they give up the second least amount of shots in the National Hockey League”.
The Predators seemed stymied by the Kings right from the start. The Kings did a good job of limiting the Predators chances and pushing the puck into the Pred's defensive zone much like Nashville has done to it’s last two opponents.
The Kings scored first on a goal by Brian Boyle seven minutes into the game. The Preds newest star, Cal O’Reilly, tied the game when he took a feed from Steve Sullivan and fired the puck past King goalie, Jonathan Quick, at the 14:24 mark for his first NHL goal.
O’Reilly was excited after the game, “It’s a good feeling especially a tying goal, it takes a weight off of my shoulders to get the first one”.
Matt Green put the Kings back in the lead at 8:58 in the second. The Kings continued to do a good job of limiting the Predators scoring chances and finished the period with a 2-1 lead.
The game was headed deep into the third period when Radek Bonk was called for holding at 5:08. The Kings power play unit was aggressively attacking when Joel Ward laid down in the slot to bock a Kings shot and then got up and skated the length of the ice just in time to take a feed from Marty Erat to score the short-handed game tying goal.
Ward described the play, “It was an unbelievable pass. I just had to make sure I got the stick on the ice to get as much of the puck as possible to put it upstairs where it had a good opportunity.
Five minutes later, Shea Weber took a pass from Steve Sullivan near the blue line and blew it past Quick into the upper left part of the net to put the Preds in the lead for the first time of the night.
When asked about the shot, Weber said, “I shot it and it went in. I had the whole end (side of the net open) so I was trying to shoot it there”.
After a rousing TV time out with the fans screaming at high decibels throughout, the Preds appeared on their way to victory. With 64 seconds left, Jack Johnson calmed the crowd with a goal to tie and force an overtime period.
With a point secured, in overtime both teams played aggressively skating end to end. At 2:41 during a flurry in front of the Predator net, Anze Kopitar was called for goaltender interference after falling on Pekka Rinne.
On the subsequent power play, Marty Erat secured his fourth assist of the game on a pass to Steve Sullivan who ended the contest with his ninth goal of the season. The entire Predator team mobbed Sully in a celebration rarely seen during the regular season. Sullivan was elated, "It was just a matter of trying to get open, and (Suter) made a great pass. We're in a dogfight for the playoffs, we needed two points, and we knew it."
Pekka Rinne played a solid game, stopping 24 of 27 shots including three in overtime. When questioned if he would be ready to go on Sunday, Pekka said that he would. Barry Trotz would not commit to the goalie versus the Wings saying that he would access how Pekka felt on Sunday morning.
The Predators now have points in their last seven games going 4-0-3 during that span. They still are without Captain Jason Arnott, David Legwand, and Ryan Jones. Steve Sullivan commented on what winning without them meant, “It is a real big deal. We would love to have those guys back in the lineup. That being said, there are twenty guys in the lineup that put the jersey on and go to war every night and all have the same goal in mind and that is two points. We’ve gelled really well together and rallied together to try to go as long as we can and hope those guys get healthy and get back in the lineup”.
The win left Nashville alone in seventh place a point ahead of Edmonton and St Louis and two points ahead of Anaheim. The Predators are in a position to control their own destiny as long as they continue to win.
The Predators have their work cut out for them over the next week. They left immediately after the game to travel to Detroit for a 4:00 p.m. game Sunday afternoon. From there, they travel to Columbus for a game on Tuesday, to Chicago for a game Friday and then back home on Saturday for a match with Columbus. If the Predators play well this week, they should be much closer to clinching a playoff spot. With things as tight as they are, it is almost a certainty that the chase will go to the final days over Easter weekend.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass