My ears are still ringing from the intensity of the crowd tonight at Bridgestone Arena, but more importantly, my heart's still hurting from the way the Nashville Predators let Game 4 get away from them, a contest which at one point was tied 3-3. There's a lot to go over tonight, which we'll get to in part after the jump, but for now, this is a tough pill to swallow.
Further reaction, video highlights, and audio clips to be added later can be found after the jump.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
- In today's game preview, we discussed how important the early parts of tonight's game would be for both teams, but particularly the Preds. Sure, the possibility for a collapse/comeback is always there, but it's much preferable to work with a lead as opposed to without. Nashville, though, apparently didn't get the memo, as Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu scored less than a minute apart not five minutes into the first. Barry Trotz called a timeout, and the Preds improved significantly, but they were left chasing the lead throughout the night, which would eventually do them in.
- Through three games, Pekka Rinne had not been at his Vezina and Hart Trophy best, and it felt like only a matter of time before he returned to form. Well, it was, and that time was tonight - sort of. Rinne wasn't forced to make a high number of saves, but he stopped the Ducks when it counted, usually in spectacular fashion.
- The problem? Rinne apparently used all his mojo in the first two periods, as he was beaten in fairly simple fashion in the third by both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Discouraging, because just when it looked like Rinne was coming back around, he regressed, so much so that Anders Lindback received his first career playoff action in the third period.
- It's become a well-known thing that the Ducks are dirty, but it's even more surprising to see live. Once again, Anaheim proved the stigma to be correct when Andy Sutton blatantly slew-footed David Legwand in the first period, leading to a Nashville power play. But that wasn't all.
- In the second period, Jarkko Ruutu laid out Martin Erat on a clearly illegal hit where the puck was nowhere to be found. It's unclear whether or not Erat was hit in the head, but he spent a significant amount of time on the ice and didn't return to the game. Ruutu has a history, and Erat was injured, so we'll see if anything comes of it other than a two minute Preds' power play...
- ...that resulted in a huge goal from Joel Ward, one made all the more important by Ruutu's hit and the need for a quick response. Cody Franson took forever and a day to set the play up, but Ward eventually tipped home the shot for his second goal of the series.
- If I may don my Captain Obvious cape for a moment: there's not a more frustrating player on Nashville's roster than Kevin Klein. Is there anyone else who could make as brilliant a play as he did on Matt Halischuk's goal and follow it up with a weak toss of his stick in the direction of Ryan Getzlaf as he proceeded to put the puck past Rinne? I think not.
- Admittedly, tonight's game was mostly bad, with problems all over the ice for Nashville. One thing that wasn't so bad, though? Noted Nashvillian Vince Gill leading the crowd in an intermission chant of "Perry is a sissy". Gold.
- As encouraging as the Predators' play through three games was, tonight's "effort" was equally discouraging. Yes, they played well in spurts and showed a little of their trademark resiliency, but the third period was more or less a disaster. It'd be unacceptable for any NHL team, regardless of situation. But for one with the history that Nashville has, at home, and in the playoffs? Disgraceful.
- And so, the Predators have deservedly lost home ice advantage and head back to Anaheim needing to win two of the next three games against a Ducks squad that is pretty clearly getting better as the games get more important. Impossible? Certainly not, but Nashville has now made things even more difficult on themselves, which, unfortunately, was not entirely unexpected.