The Nashville Predators met the Colorado Avalanche for the second time in three night and the first periods of the two games were almost exact opposites. On Tuesday, in Denver, the Predators jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on the remainder of the game and brought home a 4-1 victory.
On Thursday night, at the Bridgestone Arena, the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 12 minutes of the contest on a pair of goals that Pekka Rinne would have loved to have had back. It appeared to be a case of deja vu with a 180 degree turn in results from the prior game.
The Predators never gave up and made a complete turnaround in the second period. After being outshot 15-7 in the first period, they poured on the pressure for the remainder of the contest with 28 shots compared to Colorado's 14.
At the halfway mark of the second period, Matt Halischuk showed amazing persistence as he battled behind the net for the puck twice on the same play and tried a wrap-around on Colorado Goalie J.S. Giguere on consecutive shots.
The first one was a miss and Halischuk scrapped for the puck to regain possession. He was able to then put an almost identical shot on Giguere which was a second miss but it produced a rebound that David Legwand corralled in the slot and put in the net to cut the Avalanche lead in half, 2-1.
Halischuck was modest in his description of the play. " I just tried to get the puck to the net and crash the net. I thought our whole line did a good job. I was just trying to stay on the puck and Leggy did a good job of finishing it off."
The goal was a turning point in the game that led to the Preds gaining confidence and the eventual win. Nashville poured on the pressure in the third period getting many scoring opportunities and finally tied the game on a Sergei Kostitsyn wrister with 11:12 left in the game.
The game finished regulation play tied 2-2 and Legwand banged home his second goal of the evening 34 seconds into overtime to give the Predators the 3-2 victory.
Halischuk knew that Colorado would be a tough opponent after the Preds won against them two days earlier. "We knew it was going to be a tight game and we got behind early and did a great job of coming back and staying with it and Leggy got the big play for us in overtime."
Barry Trotz was complementary of Halischuk's persistence on Legwand's first goal. "What it (Halischuk) defines is a player that is going to have success. It's hard to have a lot of success in this league on first effort. You will have a lot more success in this league whether it is a defensive role or an offensive role on a second effort."
"Matt hasn't had a lot of ice time this year as far as a high role but his production has been invaluable when he steps in in different roles. He has spent a lot of time on the fourth line, the energy line, and he has nine goals, four assists - 13 points in a very limited situation."
"At the same time he doesn't complain. He says 'every time you put me out there, I'm going to show you that I can move up the ladder' and it shows in the balance in our line-up."
Halischuk described what has led to his success in his second year with the Predators. "I try to bring the same game every night and keep going toward the net and hopefully keep banging some more pucks in."
The Predators have won 11 of the last 15 and now have 52 points as they remain in sixth place in the Western Conference, five points behind the Central Division leading Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators will practice on Friday and face the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass