44-Second Sequence Lifts Predators

Nashville picked up its most exciting victory of the season as they made a late comeback to beat rival San Jose, 3-2. Dany Heatley and the Sharks were looking like they were in line to get two points until a 180-degree turn catapulted the Predators to their fourth consecutive victory.

The first period got off to a fast pace as both teams had their fair share of puck possession. A defensive-zone breakdown by Nashville allowed Niclas Wallin to have a wide-open shooting lane.  He finished the chance as his slap-shot eluded Anders Lindback to make it 1-0 Sharks at the 6:25 mark.

San Jose kept up the pressure as the period went on, forcing Lindback to make some nice saves to keep it a one-goal game.

Early on in the second, the Sharks easily killed off a prolonged Preds power play. But the Preds were able to knot the game at one when Jordin Tootoo scored. Tootoo’s feed from behind the net deflected past Antti Niemi courtesy of a semi-own goal from ex-Predator Scott Nichol.

It didn’t take long for the Sharks to regain momentum. They had two power play chances following Tootoo’s goal, and they finally converted on the second one as Dany Heatley jammed home a loose puck in the crease. San Jose took the 2-1 lead into the intermission.

For much of the third period, San Jose sat on that lead. Nashville made them pay at the worst time possible.

With 3:16 left, Sergei Kostitsyn re-directed a feed from Shea Weber to tie the game at two.  The goal extended Kostitsyn’s point streak to seven games. Moments later, Steve Sullivan set-up Colin Wilson on a two-on-one goal that put the Preds up 3-2. The two goals were scored just 44 seconds apart.

Things weren’t exactly smooth-sailing after Wilson’s go-ahead goal. Tootoo committed a delay of game penalty with 1:52 left, forcing the penalty kill to come up big like it has in the last month or so.

The Sharks had a big flurry in which they almost tied the game twice, but the Preds survived and held on for a huge regulation win over a Western Conference foe.

Post-Game Observations:
- Patric Hornqvist missed the contest with an upper-body injury. He is questionable for this weekend’s games.
- Though the shots say otherwise (35-27 Nashville), the Sharks controlled most of the play and pushed the pace for the first 50 minutes, at least.
- When the game was 1-0 and 2-1 in San Jose’s favor, Lindback came up big and made some key saves to keep the Preds within striking distance.
- Lindback’s shutout streak ended at 128:58 on Wallin’s goal. He had shutout Florida and the Islanders in the two previous games.
- His name isn’t in the score-sheet, but J.P. Dumont was somewhat of an unsung hero in this game. While the Preds were on the man advantage at the end of the second, Dumont made a lunging poke-check to break up a shorthanded mini-breakaway chance by Logan Couture.
- In Kostitsyn’s aforementioned seven-game point streak, he has compiled nine points.
- San Jose has had some trouble holding leads on the road this season, which made you felt a comeback was possible if the Preds could keep up the pressure there late in the game.
- Barry Trotz commented after the morning skate that Pekka Rinne is on the mend and could return as early as next week.

Post-Game Quotes:
Barry Trotz on Lindback keeping the game close…
“Absolutely. They had a couple power plays and he was really sharp. When you get good goaltending, you can be in it. He gave us some big, timely saves. We were in it, got a timely goal, and we’re sitting here with a victory.”

Barry Trotz on thought process after 2-2 game…
“I don’t know if you think about getting the next goal. We wanted to be real strong; there wasn’t a whole lot of time on the clock, so we wanted to make sure we came back after that goal with some good momentum. We had the momentum and didn’t want to give it back right away.”

Barry Trotz on Dumont’s poke-check…
“That was a big play at that point, because we were down 2-1; if (Couture) walks in and scores, I’d probably sat at that point it was game-set-match because they were playing pretty well defensively.”

Anders Lindback on the final flurry…
“They were a team that came very hard to the net and circled around it; it was no difference in the end there. They came really hard but all the guys sacrificed themselves to keep the puck out and they did a great job in front of me.”

Anders Lindback on the team’s confidence…
“When you build up a lot of confidence, you know what you’re able to do. As a group, I think we have a lot of confidence together right now and everybody trusts each other. We’re playing our game.”

Colin Wilson on his goal…
“I don’t know what happened in our D-zone, but we came out of there with a three-on-one and – I know Sullivan, whether it’s in practice or games, he likes to make that pass – so I was ready it, he made a great pass, and I let a quick one-timer go.”

Jordin Tootoo on his goal…
“To be honest, I didn’t even know it went in until everyone started cheering. Just fortunate we got a lucky bounce there. Bottom line, we got two points and that’s what came here to do.”

Final Thoughts:
With about 10 minutes remaining, it looked like San Jose was going to pull this one out. Niemi was making the stops he needed to make and they were playing well defensively. However, with about six minutes left you could feel the tides turn in Nashville’s favor. Weber had a great chance, while Sullivan and Wilson for another golden chance. They broke-through and rode the momentum to victory.

The schedule won’t get any easier for the Preds. Trotz and company fly to New Jersey for a meeting with the Devils on Friday. They immediately return home to face Los Angeles on Saturday. Next week they have another back-to-back, with Chicago and Ottawa.

The important thing with the Preds is that they keep winning games (without Rinne, no less) and keep playing ‘Predator Hockey’.

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