Weber leads way in Preds’ win over Atlanta

Behind the play of Captain Shea Weber, the Predators skated to a semi-convincing 2-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers in Nashville. Weber was by far the star of the night with two points and dominant defensive play.

It didn’t take long for the Predators to get on the board, as Sergei Kostitsyn lit the lamp 3:06 into the game. Weber intercepted a dump attempt by the Thrashers at the blueline and fired his patented slap shot towards the net, where Kostitsyn re-directed it puck past Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec. It appeared to be a set play… a ‘slap-pass’, if you will.

Later on in the period, Nashville’s energy line of Jordin Tootoo, Jerred Smithson, and Jamie Lundmark made things interesting with two or three scoring chances on a prolonged shift in Atlanta’s end.

After Atlanta missed a couple opportunities early on in the second, the Preds got their first power play of the game; Nashville’s man advantage was 0-for-12 coming into the game. Once again, they didn’t have much success.

For much of the period, the Thrashers controlled the play. Rookie Alex Burmistrov rang a wicked wrister off the post, while Niclas Bergfors couldn’t capitalize on a scoring chance. They finally knotted the game when Ben Eager crashed the net and jammed home a cross-ice feed from Chris Thorburn. Eager completed the play while falling into the post.

The Thrashers and Predators skated without a whistle for much of the first ten minutes of the final frame. There weren’t many scoring chances until Zach Bogosian took a holding the stick penalty, giving the Preds their second power play of the night.

It was then when Nashville finally converted on the man advantage. Weber’s blast from the point through traffic gave the Preds the decisive 2-1 lead with 8:58 remaining in the game. Matthew Lombardi and Ryan Suter assisted on the goal.

With Atlanta’s net empty in the final minute, things hot a little hectic. First, as Smithson was trying to shoot for the yawning cage, Dustin Byfuglien took a run at him and laid a high hit. Smithson was shaken up on the play, while his teammates – including Weber – took exception to it.

Seconds later, Joel Ward missed an empty net from just inside the blueline with no one around him. It was a mistake that Preds coach Barry Trotz noted had to be corrected.

Pekka Rinne played the whole 60 minutes and made 21 saves in the victory… Pavelec stopped 29 shots in the loss.

Post-Game Quotes:

Trotz on Weber:

“He was a force out there. I thought he made pretty good decisions all night. I thought he stepped up when we needed him to. We needed something to happen on the power play… we had good net presence and he got it through. He was a difference-maker, and that’s what Shea can be.”

Trotz on power play:

“We had a little better understanding. We talked about the concept of what we want to do. You saw more movement, you saw better decisions… some of the things that we’ve been trying to work on in practice. If you possess the puck more, you’re obviously making better decisions and moving it around, you’re probably shooting the puck and getting chances. It’s a small step forward.”

Lombardi on Weber:

“Playing against him, we always talked about him. He was our main concern when coming in and playing Nashville. He has a big shot… there’s not too many guys that want to get in front of his shot. When he gets it away, it makes something happen. It really opens up opportunities for us.”

Post-Game Ponderings:

- Trotz emphasized the importance of the veterans getting back into the flow and knocking off the rust. With the vast majority of the regulars in the lineup, you definitely saw that come into effect. The team will get more comfortable once this week continues on with two more games (at Atlanta, at Washington).

- In just his second game of the pre-season, Weber really elevated his game… it was his first time playing alongside usual defensive partner Suter (both logged heavy minutes). You could see him take over with his new captaincy, and he led the team with four hits. He unleashed ‘The Cannon’ a few times, creating both goals.

- Lombardi was active Tuesday night, recording an assist and four shots. He is starting to get acclimated to life with the Predators, looking more comfortable in each game.

- I was surprised that Rinne played the whole game Tuesday. With Chet Pickard as the backup, I thought he would get at least a period in this one. Instead, it really looks like a two-horse race between Mark Dekanich and Anders Lindback for the backup job. I would suspect both will get a chance to play Wednesday in Atlanta.

- The writing is on the wall for Cal O’Reilly. He was given an opportunity to play with Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist, but failed to stand out. Since he’s on a one-way deal, it may be difficult for the Preds to keep him with all of the depth at the forward position.

Final Thoughts:

This was easily the best game the Predators have played here in the first week of games. Weber stepped up in a big way, and the man advantage snapped a 0-for-13 skid in the pre-season. It was the full defensive unit, and they played wonderfully in limiting Atlanta to very few chances.

This win should be a good building block for the rest of the pre-season as they head into opening night next Saturday (October 9th).

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