Coach Barry Trotz
Pekka Rinne, Colin WIlson, Kevin Klein, David Legwand, and Shane O'Brien Speak
The Nashville Predators remained unbeaten in regulation but suffered their third overtime loss in a row on Thursday night in front of a sellout Bridgestone Arena crowd.
The Pittsburgh Penguins handed the Preds a 4-3 loss 3:49 into overtime when Kris Letang slipped a shot past Pekka Rinne to grab the victory in a hard-fought game. Sidney Crosby showed why he is the best player in the world as he scored two goals and assisted on Letang's game winner.
The Predators had the lead three different times and the Penguins came back to tie on each occasion. David Legwand scored 53 seconds into the game when Joel Ward won a battle on the boards with Sidney Crosby and got the puck free to Jordin Tootoo who threw a pass to Legwand on the opposite side of the net. The 1-0 lead held up for the remainder of the first period.
Pittsburgh started quickly in the second period when Evgeni Malkin scored 54 seconds into play to tie the game 1-1. Nashville responded with a power play goal from Cody Franson at 8:03.
The Pens came back with Crosby's first goal five minutes later and the second period ended 2-2. The goal was a masterpiece as Crosby shot the puck at Rinne's pads to deflect it into the net from the red line.
Rinne commented, "He's a smart player and I was cheating for the pass and he saw that and banked it off my leg and he outsmarted me."
In the third, at 5:08, on a rush, Colin Wilson dropped a pass to Patric Hornqvist who fired a shot that hit the post and went in on a beautiful play. Pittsburgh tied it at 12:58 when Malkin fired a shot on the net that rebounded directly to Crosby on the opposite side who was able to beat Rinne for the score.
As play wound down, both teams had scoring chances but did not convert. In overtime, the Preds almost sealed the win when J P Dumont hit the crossbar and the puck fell behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and was headed for the line when ex-Pred Andrew Hutchinson knocked the puck clear.
Letang's game winner was a disappointment for the crowd of 17,113 who had witnessed one of the best regular season games between inter-conference teams in franchise history.
As usual, Rinne took responsibility for his share of the loss on the game winner, "I got a little bit screened. Obviously you wish you see those shots but this time it got through me and I didn't see it until the last second and it was too late."
The game was marred by an ugly incident at 8:28 in the second period when Malkin left his feet and slammed Jordin Tootoo into the boards that resulted in a no call. The normally docile Kevin Klein responded and tried to engage Malkin who wanted no part of the call to fight.
Klein ended up fighting Deryk Engelland and both were sent to the box. Incredibly, Klein was called for roughing while Malkin was not penalized, giving the Pens a man advantage. After the game, Klein refused to comment on the Malkin hit because he did not want to be fined.
Colin Wilson discussed the let down during the third period, "They came out and were going really hard in the third.We keep having great starts but we have to finish up the game."
Coach Barry Trotz was very respectful of the Penguins elite players, "We don't get to see Sydney Crosby and Malkin very often and when we do up close and personal, they are pretty dynamic."
Even though the teams rarely play, there was an unusual amount of intensity for an inter-conference game. Trotz theorized on the animosity, "Usually it is a little subtler. You'd think we were in the same division. I think probably Ray Shero had then hyped up a little bit because Ray is very popular with their team and they wanted to get him a win in Nashville. They came with a lot of juice. They have great leadership and they drove the team tonight."
On three straight home overtime losses Trotz explained, "If we get one or two points in every game all year, it would be great. We've played some good teams and got points out of them but at the same time we would rather be on the two side. At the same time, a point is better than a loss."
The hockey fan in Trotz came out as he described the game, "From a fan thing, there was a little bit of everything. It was a pretty good game. From an entertainment standpoint you had everything from some of the best players in the world playing, you had some physical hits, you had emotions running high, you had breakaways, and all those thing that make sport great."
The crowd should have received one of the three stars for showing up in force on a week night and giving it their all. Shane O'Brien acknowledged the effort, "I've only been here for a couple of weeks but I would put theses fans up against anywhere in the league for excitement and noise, and you could tell they wanted it."
He continued, "They know what's going on. People say it's a small market, but they know more here than people give them credit. They are loud, they are great, and it's fun to play in this building."
The Predators will leave on Friday for back to back road games in Dallas and Tampa on Saturday and Sunday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass