Thursday, March 22, 2012

Radulov scores, Penguins cruise to 5-1 win over Nashville

On a night when hockey fans everywhere were looking for a Stanley Cup Final preview, all that was shown was how hot the Pens are and the importance that home ice could play in the finals. In the end, the Pens won 5-1 in a game that was much closer than the final score.

Pittsburgh did what top teams do and converted on all of their scoring chances and rode the home ice to an easy victory. Nashville played the roll of the road team and out-played the Pens in many ways but were unable to convert their scoring chances into a victory.

Evgeni Malkin scored two goals and may have locked up the Hart trophy race with the national TV following. James Neal had four assists and showed why the Pens went after him last season to play on Sidney Crosby's wing. Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke, and Chris Kunitz also scored for the Pens.

The Predators lone goal came from Alexander Radulov in his season NHL four-season debut and left Predators fans dreaming of things to come.

Marc-Andre Fleury won the battle for the NHL lead in goalie wins, being the first one to 40, stopping 29 of 30 Predators shots. Pekka Rinne was repeatedly victimized by poor defense while stopping 18 of 23 Penguins shots.

The Predators will return home and face the Winnipeg Jets (A.K.A. the ex-Atlanta Thrashers) in a special 6 p.m. start time on Saturday night. They remain in fifth place in the Western Conference with 92 points.

At The Puck Drop...

In Goal: Pekka Rinne (39-15-8, 2.41, .923) versus Marc-Andre Fleury (39-14-4, 2.26, .916).

Scratches: Nashville - Brian McGrattan, Matt Halischuk, Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Jack MacLellan. Pittsburgh - Ben Lovejoy, Dustin Jeffery, Eric Tangradi, Joe Vitale, and Brent Johnson.

First Period...

The game got off to a bad start for the Predators with a quick goal by Malkin, 1:23 into the contest after a Sergei Kostitsyn turnover in the neutral zone. Rinne got just enough of the puck with his glove to allow it to fall gently into the Preds' net. James Neal and Kris Letang assisted on the play.

Things deteriorated further when at 4:06 Dupuis picked up another quick goal on a tip from a shot from Letang to give the Pens an early 2-0 lead. Ex-Pred ex-Pred Steve Sullivan received an assist on the play.

The Preds and the Pens had numerous chances and rang the posts repeatedly through the remainder of the period.

As the period wound down both teams committed infractions. Shea Weber was called for interference on Dupuis at 19:01 and Malkin was called for tripping David Legwand at 19:26. Neither team was able to take advantage during four on four or the power play.

1st Period       Goals            Shots          Corsi            PIMs         Faceoffs  
Predators        0        9        18     1-2:00  9-9  50%
Penguins           2        8        20     1-2:00  9-9  50%

Second Period...

Disaster struck at 1:58 when Frankie Bouillon passed the puck directly to Neal who gave it to Cooke who walked it directly passed Rinne to put the Pens up 3-0.

Things continued to deteriorate at 7:35 when Kunitz banked a puck off of Shea Weber to put the Pens up 4-0. Neal and Brooks Orpik assisted.

The Predators made things interesting at 12:01 when Radulov scored his first goal in four years on a rebound off of a Hal Gill shot to close the gap to 4-1 (and Preds Nation let out a collective roar!).

With 56 seconds left, Sidney Crosby was called for high sticking Bouillon to put the Preds on the man-advantage.

2nd Period       Goals            Shots          Corsi            PIMs         Faceoffs  
Predators        1        10        22       0-0:00 13-8  62%
Penguins            2         8        14       1-2:00 8-13  38%

Third Period...

At 2:03 into the period, Malkin picked up his second goal, that led to chants of "MVP" from the Pittsburgh faithful to give the Pens an insurmountable 5-1 lead.

The Predators missed numerous chances during the remainder of the period which was just confirmation that it was definitely the Penguins' night as they extended their unbeaten streak.

3rd  Period       Goals            Shots          Corsi            PIMs         Faceoffs  
Predators        0        11        21       0-0:00  3-8  27%
Penguins           1         7        10       2-4:00  8-3  73%


Final     Goals            Shots          Corsi            PIMs         Faceoffs  
Predators        1        30        61      1-2:00 25-25 50%
Penguins             5        23        44      2-4:00 25-25 50%

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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