Predators 4, Maple Leafs 1: Bloody Knuckles

He really is nuts.

Despite being battered with shots, Pekka Rinne never waffled in net, and the Predators beat the Maple Leafs tonight in Nashville, 4-1.

The much-maligned of late Kostitsyn-Fisher-Erat line lead the way on offense, combining for seven points on the strength of two Marty party goals. Erat's first tally came 5:48 into the first off a lucky rebound that landed right on his stick. That lead would hold until a high-sticking penalty on Jack Hillen set up a Leafs power play, which John-Michael Liles converted on an extremely well-placed wrist shot.

The Preds retook the lead quickly, though, as Ryan Suter, supposedly in the midst of contract negotiations, strengthened his bargaining position with his fourth goal of the season. Suter's four goals matches his total from each of the past two seasons and gives him the ever-rare lead over his partner Shea Weber, who has netted just three so far. 

That would prove all the lead the Predators needed. Erat added another goal off a one-timer from Mike Fisher early in the third period, and the Preds characteristically fell back into a very conservative trap-style game. The Leafs had chances but, largely thanks to Rinne, the boys in gold bent but didn't break. 

Craig Smith had a chance to ice the game late, but the site of the vacated net painfully reminded him of his fallen mentor David Legwand, and stricken with grief, he flipped the puck over the glass. Matt Halischuk, however, secured frosties for all with his first David Legwand Memorial Empty Net Goal of the season.

Video highlights and errata after the jump.

First the highlights:

Now a minute to talk about the fight. Brian McGrattan thoroughly pounded Jay Rosehill's head, in one of the more dominant fights I've ever seen from a Predator. Whether or not you think the dedicated enforcer is a sideshow or a legitimate weapon, McGrattan's might be the best fighter in the league. So far on HockeyFights.com it's a unanimous win for Mac and the highest rated fight of the season (8.7/10). Here's the video:

I heard estimates of 30-50 punches thrown from McGrattan and he landed nearly all of them. Rosehill was trying to give it back just as quickly, but he could hardly reach Big Ern's face. Watching McGrattan fight is literally terrifying--the way he smiles and laughs inappropriately, while taking punches. McGrattan finished with two variations on the "let me hear it" celebration. The Preds' bench laughed, I laughed, even the dude in the home penalty box laughed. Nashville's definitely showing Mac the love, and he's basking in it. 

Other notes:

  • Despite his big moment, McGrattan had an otherwise frustrating game, with two failed dump ins, a bad icing, and two missed scoring chances. On the first miss, McGrattan just couldn't elevate a beautiful rebound. The second non-goal was more of a bad beat, as Luke Schenn stopped his shot, as it rolled along the goal line. 
  • Another "but" for some of tonight's stars: Erat and Kostitsyn need to shoot more. Yes, Erat scored because Fisher passed beautifully on a 2-on-1. But on two earlier breakaways, a 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 respectively, Erat and Kostitsyn tried to make the perfect pass instead of taking the clear shot. Mark Howard gave a report from the bench about how Trotz had been urging Kostitsyn to shoot more and clearly had gotten through to him. What?? SK74 had 0 shots. 
  • Shea Weber is +18. Ryan Suter is +15. 
  • Even though they've been quiet for two games, the Wilson-Smith-Hornqvist had good shifts and good chances. I'm not giving that line back to Leggy yet. 
  • Kevin Klein resumed his long-running campaign to turn my hair prematurely grey with a turnover at center ice to Tim Connolly
  • Dion Phaneuf was picking on Tootoo early, maybe looking for a fight, but Toots was having none of it. I half-expected this to happen
  • The power play went 0-3 against a poor PK team. They had good pace early on, but sloppy turnovers are doing them in. 
  • Ben Scrivens made the best save against the Preds so far this in the season, robbing Mike Fisher on a perfect tic-tac-toe series of passes.
  • Dave Steckel and Francis Bouillon both threw their hats into the ring for best actor this year, on two embellished high-sticking penalties. In both cases, the penalty was there, but each player made well sure the ref called it. 
  • The Predators really need to tighten up defensively. Exiting the zone was a huge problem throughout the game. Blake Geoffrion also made his case for Milwaukee a lot stronger with a few horrendous turnovers late in the game.
  • "Is it Gumby...that little rubber thing that stretches?" --Terry Crisp
  • From the official scorer: "NSH #15 SMITH, Wrist, Over Net, Off. Zone, 11 ft."
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