Predators Return from the Dead

The Nashville Predators found themselves in another situation where they could have easily thrown in the towel and given up Thursday night playing against the star studded Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pred’s persistence and solid goaltending by Pekka Rinne turned things around for them as they scored five consecutive goals to come back from a 3-0 deficit, to a 5-3 win breaking the Pred’s five game losing streak.

Nashville’s defense hit the ground running Thursday night. Pittsburgh’s first shot on goal did not come until 13:14 into the game. However, Pittsburgh struck first at 14:18 in the first when Sidney Crosby passed it to the wide-open Petr Sykora, who one-timed it past Dan Ellis. I don’t think this was a confidence breaker because we had been playing so well.

In the second period at 3:29 seconds Jordan Staal got a pass from Tyler Kennedy on a two on one rush to score to make it 2-0. After this goal, Barry Trotz replaced Dan Ellis with Pekka Rinne. Trotz mentioned later in the post-game interview that he wasn’t mad at Ellis but was just trying to change the luck. Just 21 seconds later, Maxime Talbot got a lucky bounce which went off Jason Arnott’s leg and made it 3-0. There really was nothing Rinne could have done and the recent gloom in the crowd seemed to return.

Jason Arnott did his job as captain and gave his line a bit of a pep talk which apparently turned out well. A little over four minutes later, a loose puck right by the Pittsburgh net was picked up by Marty Erat, who blasted the puck top shelf. This really got the momentum going in the building. At 13:32 into the period, Marty Erat and David Legwand were breaking in on a two on one opportunity, and got a shorty to make things 3-2. The crowd was going wild. With 55 seconds remaining in the second period, a hard fought battle in the corner and a lucky deflection, Jerred Smithson scored to tie it up, 3-3. The period ended with a standing ovation for the team that had been the recent victim of jeers that have never been hear in the franchise’s 11 year history.

The Penguins really tried to bring on the heat in the third period out shooting Nashville 15-5. At 9:04 Ryan Suter scored the first power play goal in what has seemed like forever to put the Preds on top. To finish it off, Greg Zanon scored the empty netter at 19:37.

After replacing Dan Ellis early in the second period, Pekka Rinne played another unreal game tonight. I’m counting the days before my prediction comes true and Pekka gets the number one role.

It was an overall amazing effort by the players tonight. A lot of the younger guys were generating opportunities and injecting energy into the game. This is the kind of momentum we need right now. Hopefully we can continue doing this and get ourselves out of the current funk we’re in. We will have plenty of opportunity this weekend with a home and home series with Chicago starting Saturday night at the Sommet Center.

NHL Debut for Santorelli… Mike Santorelli played in his first NHL game tonight. After winning the AHL Player of the Month for December and Leading Milwaukee to a 12-2 record for the month he deserved a shot at the next level. On paper it doesn’t look like he did much, but he was definitely a factor in tonight’s game. He played quality minutes and even spent time on the power play. He played on a line paired with recent Milwaukee linemate Ryan Jones and J P Dumont, a combination that worked well.

Temporary end to the Scoring Drought… The Predators have not scored more that three goals in a game since American Thanksgiving week and are one of only four teams in the NHL not to have scored 100 goals this year. This was the first time this season the Preds have come from 3 goals down to win. Coming in to Thursdays game the Preds were 3-9-1 in the last 13 games scoring only 18 goals in their last 12 games.

2009 vs 2008… At the forty game point in 2008, the Predators were 20-18-2 and were in a position similar to this year where they were still trying to find their identity. The 2009 Preds are now 18-19-3 and in 14th place in the west but still only 2 points out of 10th and 4 points behind a playoff position and the 8th place Minnesota Wild. In spite of the recent 5 game slide, the Preds are a short winning streak away from being back in the top eight.

Jason Arnott Honored… Jason Arnott received numerous awards and accolades in pre-game ceremonies commemorating his 1000th NHL game.

New Day for the D-Men… For the first time this year someone other than Kevin Klein or Villie Koistinen sat out as the seventh D-man. Greg deVris got a well deserved visit to the pine pony for the game. Koistinen did not have his best game but played as well, if not better, than deVris has of late.

Roster Jam… Something will have to give on Saturday if Steve Sullivan indeed makes his long awaited return. The Preds are maxed out at 23 on the roster and the only players not having to clear waivers are recent callups Jones and Santorelli and Antti Philstrom who has played hard every minute he has been with the team for 20 games. I don’t see the Preds taking a chance with any current players on waivers so Philstrom unfortunately looks to be the odd man out.

Three Star Slight… There is no way, Pekka Rinne was not worthy of a three star selection, especially ahead of Sidney Crosby. After the fluke goal off od Jason Arnott seconds after entering the game, Rinne stopped 17 straight Pens shots many of which were quality scoring chances.

All Star Preview… It was neat getting to see some of the biggest names in the NHL in person on Thursday. Malkin was bigger in person than I realized. Crosby’s “crotch punching” incident really did a lot to take the shine off his star in my book. With the new schedule we won’t see them again for quite a while.

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