The Nashville Predators salvaged their lackluster road trip with a huge 4-3 shootout win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on Sunday afternoon. Martin Erat had a goal during regulation and the game clincher in the shootout to lead the Predators to the victory. Shea Weber and Jordin Tootoo also had goals for the Predators. Cal O’Reilly had the official game winner in the shootout.
Dan Ellis was the hero in net for the Preds stopping 30 of 33 Penguin shots, many while under intense pressure from the Pens star studded offense.
The Penguins goals came from Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik. His counter part, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 of 26 Predator shots.
The first period started with both teams skating hard, focusing on defense and controlling their own defensive zones. Ellis was sharp, stopping several Penguin scoring chances.
The first penalty of the contest came at when Ryan Jones was called for high sticking Kris Letang at 14:21. Twenty-two seconds later Sidney Crosby fired a slap shot past Ellis for is 42nd goal of the year to put the Pens ahead 1-0.
The opening period ended with the Pens putting a line of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal on the ice to try to pick up a second goal in the last 25 seconds of the period.
The first period was clearly dominated by the Penguins as they out shot the Preds 11-4 and also lead in the Corsi numbers 20-9. Without a complete turnaround by the Preds it looked like that they would go quietly into the Olympic break with another loss.
The second period started with the Predators on the power play which came from a double minor against Malkin for roughing and a single roughing call against Dan Hamhuis.
The Preds came out on the power play and 34 seconds into the period when Erat blew a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game 1-1.
Pittsburgh grabbed the lead back at 2:09 when Stall drove to the nest on a delayed penalty and pushed it at Ellis who made the initial stop. Cooke was left unguarded on the opposite side of the net and slipped the puck into the net to regain the 2-1 lead for the Pens.
However, Twelve seconds later, Jordin Tootoo sent a shot unexpectedly from Fleury’s left that found its way into the net to re-tie the game at 2-2.
The Preds went back on the man advantage at 4:23 when Chris Kunitz roughed up Erat after the whistle and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Preds were unable to take advantage of the man advantage.
At 12:13, the Predators went back on the power play when Crosby slashed Colin Wilson as Wilson was on a breakaway down the ice. With 1:08 left on the initial penalty, Staal was called for tripping to put the Preds on the five-on-three power play. The Preds were abysmal as they didn’t get a shot on goal for the duration of the two penalties.
After roughly a minute of six-on-five hockey on a delayed penalty, play stopped at 16:40 as Francis Bouillon was officially called for interference.
The Pens got a couple of shots but could not convert.
The Predators played better and improved their shot count during the second period but were still dominated by the Pens for extended parts of the middle stanza. The Preds out shot the Pens 15-8 and led in the Corsi numbers 26-15.
The Penguins came out strong in the third period and scored when Orpik let a slap shot fly from the blue line off a face off at 4:.51 that Ellis misplayed off his blocker that resulted in a goal to put the Pens ahead 3-2.
The Preds went on the power play with an opportunity to tie the game at 6:26 after a Pascal Dupuis holding penalty. With three seconds left in the penalty, Ryan Suter was called for roughing Malkin to put the Pens on the man advantage. The Preds escaped the Pens power play unscathed.
The Preds made a comeback at 12:17 when Weber was left alone at the blue line above the slot and unloaded a bomb at the net that got past Fleury to tie the game 3-3.
With 5:10 left in the game the Predators returned to the man advantage when Orpik was called for high sticking on Joel Ward. The Preds did little on the man advantage.
With 1:55 left, Malkin took Weber down behind the Pens net and was called for interference. The Preds never got a shot on net and appeared happy to at least gain the loser point. The Pens and Preds each had seven shots in the final period while the Pens led in the Corsi 17-13.
Just 1:16 into the overtime, Kevin Klein was called for holding as he grabbed Staal as he broke toward the Preds goal. The Pens managed two shots and appeared to focus on the perfect shot more than putting the puck on net.
In spite of the Pens out shooting the Preds 7-0 in overtime, the game remained tied and headed for a shootout where the Pens were 7-0 on shootouts for the season.
The Preds shot second and O’Reilly put the Preds up 1-0 after Letang missed on his first shot. Crosby missed his attempt on the shootout for only the second time this year. Marty Erat came out and put the puck past Fleury to win the shootout 2-0 and make the final score in the game 4-3.
Storylines from the Game
Goaltending Controversy in the Music City…
In spite of a miscue that allowed the Pens third goal early in the third period, Ellis was perfect for the rest of regulation, in overtime and in the shootout. Combined with a strong game on Wednesday when the Preds beat the Rangers, Ellis clearly out played Pekka Rinne during the four game road trip.
Barry Trotz and David Poile will have a lot to consider over the two week Olympic break and as the trade deadline approaches on March 3. Ellis was the odds on favorite not to return but I’m sure it is not as clear at this point.
Preds Win a Game While Being Outplayed…
The hockey gods finally smiled on the Predators again. Pittsburgh appeared to be the superior team for the better part of the game. Even when the Preds were able to surge duing the second period, the Pens looked to still have another gear waiting for play at the end.
By the end of the game, the Preds were the more motivated team and were able to hold off the Pens in overtime and also hand them their first shoot out loss of the season.
Thoughts Turn to the Olympic Tournament…
Six Predators and five Penguins left the game and headed straight to Vancouver to prepare to play for their for their respective teams. Rumors were that Weber was invited to fly on Crosby’s chartered jet as a fellow member of Team Canada. After Weber’s bomb blew past fellow Team Canada Goalie Fleury, you have to wonder if the offer of a ride was still available.
For all but the six Olympians, the team will scatter in different directions for the next ten days. Wilson will probably head back to Milwaukee to continue to play regularly. Nolan Yonkman was reassigned before the game. Cody Franson will also make a pit stop in Milwaukee when he recovers from injury. It is doubtful that O’Reilly will be able to play during the break due to the waiver rules.