The Nashville Predators beat the Calgary Flames 5-3 in an afternoon match where the Flames looked to be the better team on the ice for the last half of the game. At the conclusion of the game, the Predator’s 47 points was tied with Chicago, San Jose and Los Angeles at the top of the tightly bunched Western Conference.
The Predators were led by an outstanding goaltending performance by Dan Ellis who made up for many of the Preds’ defensive miscues.
Martin Erat and Marcel Goc each had a goal and and two assists to lead the Predator scoring effort. Cody Franson, David Legwand and Dave Scatchard also had goals. Joel Ward added two assists.
The Predators played the game without captain Jason Arnott, who was out with an “upper body injury.” The Preds did what they had to do early with a makeshift first line that resulted in the first goal of the game by Marty Erat on a great feed from Jerred Smithson 4:22 into the contest.
At 7:39 in the first Robin Regehr was called for interference when he knocked down Patric Hornqvist in the open ice. The Preds managed two shots on the man advantage but was unable to covert. At one point Shea Weber had an open net after Kiprusoff went down prematurely but missed high over the cross bar.
The Preds got another opportunity on the power play at 10:29 when David Moss was called for roughing. As the man advantage was expiring, at 12:30, Marty Erat fired a shot at the net that was surrounded by Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand. Legwand was credited with the gaol as he and Hornqvist to the rebound off of Kiprusoff to pick up his eight goal of the season.
Before the Predators could get comfortable with the two goal lead, Jerred Smithson was called for hooking at 13:03. Calgary wasted no time on the man advantage when Dion Phaneuf picked up his eighth goal on the power play at at 13:41. Phaneuf’s goal was his second in two games after going 19 games without a goal.
The teams traded coincidental roughing penalties at 15:30 when Patric Hornqvist and Adam Pardy were called for roughing after a brief skirmish.
The first period ended with the Preds leading 2-1. The Predators out shot Calgary 10-7, and were ahead 13-10 in Corsi numbers.
Early in the second period Wade Belak and Brian McGrattan hooked up in a “staged fight” after a face off at 2:14. The fight was stopped by the officials prematurely with McGrattan getting the best of Belak.
As the Flames rallied of the the McGrattan pugilistic win, Dan Hamhuis turned the puck over in the neutral zone to set up Jerome Iginla for a goal to tie the game 2-2. The goal broke Iginla’s eight game goal drought that dated back to the last game between the Preds and Flames on November 30.
The Predators returned to the man advantage at 5:04 when Craig Conroy was called for tripping but were unable to get a shot off on the power play.
Calgary was the recipient of a second goal off of a Dan Hamhuis turnover near the Predator blue line. Jarome Iginla picked up the misplayed puck and moved in for a shot that Ellis stopped but Iginla got his own rebound and used a sliding Dan Hamhuis to ricochet a second attempt into the Preds’ net to put the Flames ahead 3-2.
Dave Scatchard was called for boarding Adam Pardy at 12:34, but amazingly, the Predators’ penalty kill unit was able to hold of the Flames’ power play attack.
With the Preds looking somewhat shaky, Joel Ward provided the remedy as he fired a shot from the slot and a breaking Marcel Goc picked up the rebound to put the puck in the net to tie the game 3-3 at 17:10 in the second.
Although the Preds were able to tie the game, they struggled for much of the period with the Calgary pressure. Dan Ellis was the star of the period in spite of giving up two goals to Jerome Iginla that he had little to do with. The Flames out shot the Preds 15-6 and had many scoring chances that Ellis was able to control.
The third period started much as the second period was played. Miscommunication led to a Craig Conroy breakaway at 2:37 that Dan Ellis luckily was able to control.
At 4:14, Jerred Smithson and Joel Ward, working for the puck in the Calgary zone, were able to get the puck to a waiting Cody Franson near the blue line who fired a bomb through traffic that found the right side of the Flames net to put the Preds ahead 4-3. Franson’s goal ended up being the game winning goal.
At 12:14 in the third, Calgary missed a prime opportunity to tie the game when Dan Ellis was far from the net but a Calgary shot was wide of the empty net. At 13:40 Ellis held off a Curtis Glencross breakaway to again save a goal.
The game was finally decided when Dave Scatchard got the empty net goal at 19:34 on a feed from Marty Erat to give the Predators a two goal cushion that left the final score at 5-3. The empty netter tied a Predator record of scoring five goals for four games in a row.
The Predators were out shot 10-4 in the third period and 32-20 for the game.
Story Lines from the Game
Dan Ellis’ stellar goaltending…
Dan Ellis single-handedly kept the Predators in the game with an outstanding goaltending performance stopping 29 of 32 Flame’s shots. In the second and third period Calgary repeated pressured the Predators and forced the puck toward Ellis and the Predator net. Ellis made numerous saves where he had little help around the net. It was easily Ellis’ best performance of the season.
Players are rewarded when they go to the net…
The Predator players are learning what Barry Trotz loves to preach, that you get your reward when you go to the net and work in the “dirty” and “hard” areas near the blue ice. The goal by Legwand was almost a competition to see who could take control of the area in front of the net. Marcel Goc’s goal came from picking up a rebound while skating toward the net.
Christmas is not the time for giving on the ice…
The Predators continue to have problems with turnovers and giveaways that lead to odd man rushes and breakaways. Sloppy puck handling and bad decision making by Dan Hamhuis led to two Jarome Iginla goals. The Predators overcame the error in this game but cannot continue to win with the number of unforced errors that they have committed in recent games.
The Predators head to Vancouver for a couple of days of practice before closing out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule against the Canucks on Tuesday night.