The Nashville Predators' desperate drive towards the playoffs came to a cataclysmic end in Minnesota tonight, in an 8-4 loss that bore all the hallmarks of a team simply running out of gas. Combined with St. Louis' victory over Columbus this evening, the Preds have been eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, the rest of the game recap will follow shortly.
Outside of the goaltending (Pekka Rinne giving up 6 goals on 35 shots), the penalty kill (Minnesota went 3-for-5 on the PP), and the referees (a number of mystifying calls), things went pretty well for Nashville. Jason Arnott scored twice to tie his career-best with 33 goals this season, and Steve Sullivan chipped in with a goal and two assists.
The bottom line, however, is that this team simply looked tired tonight. Rinne had trouble controlling the puck, some of the penalties (Dumont's hook and Hamhuis' hi-stick in particular) were the result of guys losing position and not skating to keep up.
Every time the Preds seemed to get a spark, Minnesota came right back to take it away. Arnott gave Nashville a 1-0 lead in the 1st, but by the end of the period the Wild scored twice to pull ahead just seconds before the intermission. After the deficit widened to 4-1, Arnott scored again to pull within 4-2, but less than two minutes later another PP goal for the Wild pushed the score to 5-2.
Perhaps the most brutal blow came in the 3rd, after a Shea Weber goal on a 5-on-3 power play. Nashville still had more than a minute of power play time remaining, but 19 seconds later Mikko Koivu scored shorthanded to make the score 6-3, wiping out hopes of one more Predators comeback.