If you were in Bridgestone Arena, and completely oblivious to what date it was, you would have thought it was mid-April. With a slew of ‘Hawks fans in attendance, the building had a definite playoff atmosphere from the opening puck-drop.
The Nashville crowd lifted the Preds to victory as they overcame a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in a shootout, the first of a home-and-home series between these rivals. Shea Weber scored the big goal, while Pekka Rinne was clutch in the key moments.
There was a lot of back and forth action to kick things off and both goalies had to be sharp. The Preds sent a few shots wide and hit a post, while the ‘Hawks were threatening on the other end.
Chicago’s lethal power play converted on their first opportunity of the night at the 14:59 mark to take a 1-0 lead. Tomas Kopecky picked up a loose puck, broke in towards the net, and roofed his shot past Rinne in tight quarters. The defending champs held that one goal lead after 20 minutes.
Period two belonged to the Blackhawks. In the frame, they outshot Nashville 14-5 and sustained pressure in their zone. Viktor Stalberg scored from behind the net, banking the puck of Rinne’s back and into the net. Rinne was scrambling in his crease and was unaware where the puck was until it was across the goal line.
The goal put Chicago up 2-0, but that’s all that they would get in the period, even though it easily could have been 3-0 or 4-0. Patrick Sharp missed a wide-open net and Rinne had to make numerous saves under siege to keep it a two-goal game.
The third period was a different story. Nashville came out with more energy and got more scoring chances than the first two periods combined. After threatening for a few minutes, the Preds broke the seal and the comeback was in full force.
The grind-line continued their hot streak when Jerred Smithson one-timed a Nick Spaling feed past Corey Crawford to cut the lead to 2-1 with 10:14 to go.
Smithson’s goal ignited the fans in Bridgestone Arena, who followed it up with their patented TV timeout standing ovation with 7:43 remaining. At the next face-off – with the crowd still roaring – Shea Weber blasted home the tying goal right off the draw to send the arena into a frenzy. Weber extended his point streak to eight games with the goal.
Before the game went into overtime, the teams traded chances and weren’t ‘settling’ for the extra point. Rinne came up huge in crunch time, stoning Patrick Sharp on a clear breakaway with under 90 seconds remaining in overtime.
In the shootout, Marcel Goc was the lone goal-scorer when his shot snuck under Crawford. Rinne, who made 31 saves on the night, stopped Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, while Sharp missed high to seal the win for the Preds.
The win was Nashville’s second via the shootout against Chicago this season.
Barry Trotz on the victory before the road trip…
“I think that if we had carried the second period into the third period, it’d be a pretty bad feeling going on the road trip. We’re going to play a certain way, where we’re going to do the right things, and do what need to do, and get through the longest road trip of the year. If we can do that we’ll be in pretty good shape. It was a good way to start. The last home game of the month – do something that was worthwhile.”
Barry Trotz on the grind-line’s success…
“They’re all responsible defensively – that’s why they’re good together. They work, and they have some offense. Ward has scored 18 goals in this league, and Spaling is going to score his share. They do the right things. They stay on the puck and they get chances and they’re converting. They’ve carried us at times.”
Barry Trotz on the crowd’s standing ovation…
“It’s huge. Not too many buildings I’ve seen have ever done that. They started that little tradition a few years back and I’ll tell ya… it’s like… it just energizes you, it’s like a shot of adrenaline – especially when you smell blood. We were just a goal down and that was uplifting. You almost don’t want to disappoint the fans. You want to get it done, you want to show them that they’re a part of this. Tonight they were.”
Jerred Smithson on the tying goal being a set play…
“Anytime you have a guy with a shot like that, you want to utilize it. You just battle hard and try to win the draw. The way he shoots the puck anything can happen, and he found a way to put a goal in.”
This was a momentous win for the Predators, one they had to have before heading to Chicago tomorrow to start a six-game road trip. This has been a streaky team this year, and it was an important ‘W’ after Thursday’s loss in Florida.
Tomorrow’s tilt in the Windy City will be interesting, especially considering that the ‘Hawks will be mad after blowing a late two-goal lead. It will be their last meeting in Chicago this season.
This game was the last home contest for the Preds until Feb. 1 when they return from the All-Star break. The upcoming road trip is arguably their biggest of the season.