After the feel-good love fest that was Saturday's romp over the Red Wings, the Predators were due for a white knuckle-inducing shootout, and that's just what they got in tonight's tilt with the Edmonton Oilers. While David Legwand worked a give-and-go to jump Nashville out to a quick 1-0 lead, but the easy-going atmosphere didn't last long after that.
Early on, things looked pretty sloppy. Just as Terry Crisp was mentioning that he'd be happy to see the Preds ice the puck and slow things down a bit, a turnover and an unlucky bounce led to a Sam Gagner breakaway, which evened the score at 1-1. A few minutes later, Marc-Andre Pouliot was allowed to sit in the slot all alone and he beat Pekka Rinne to put Edmonton up 2-1. Were the good vibes from last week going to slip away so quickly?
A real highlight came late in the second with Nashville leading 3-2, after a bit of a tussle down near the Nashville net. Ryan Suter squared off with Oiler tough guy Jason Strudwick, but Shea Weber stepped in for his defense partner (who's not a fighter) and dropped the gloves. It was a pretty even scrap, with both Strudwick and Weber getting some good shots in, but the initiative that Weber took there to stick up for his teammate speaks volumes about his growth both as a hockey player and a leader on this team.
Early in the 3rd, however, the ice tilted in Edmonton's favor. What should have been a harmless 2-on-3 rush by the Oilers resulted in a tie game on a goal by Andew Cogliano (J.P. Dumont was right there with him, but failed to tie up his stick). Just minutes later, J.S. Jacques tipped a long shot from the point and gave the Oilers a 4-3 lead, their second of the game. But just as they gave up that early 2-1 advantage, Edmonton wasn't able to hold on very long.
Steve Sullivan took over the game at that point, scoring twice to put Nashville up 5-4; first he finished off a nice tic-tac-toe play with Dumont and Jason Arnott, then he caught a loose puck near the top of the crease, kicked it up to his stick, and put it past Roloson to give the Predators the lead with 10:54 left.
Perhaps the most encouraging play by Sully came with eight minutes left in the third, however; he got the puck around the Nashville blueline, and simply blew by Ladislav Smid to get create a dangerous opportunity. It wasn't just the physical speed and acceleration that was so impressive, but the confidence that he showed in making the play. The rust appears to be shaking off, and with 6 goals and 7 assists in the last 11 games, it's safe to say that Steve Sullivan is back.
Edmonton wasn't done, however; they tied things back up at 5-5 on a soft goal given up by Rinne; a lazy puck directed at the net wasn't deflected enough to the side, and instead trickled over his blocker into the net. An already-wild game was headed for a furious finish...
Jason Arnott sent the fans home happy in overtime as Roloson struggled in his crease; there's been no word as of yet as to what happened, but it looked like an earlier shot stung him up high. Craig Button on the NHL Network pointed out that perhaps Roloson's competitive instinct cost his team the game; if he had stayed down on the ice, the refs would have likely blown the play dead.
In the end, it was good to see the Predators pull this one out; Pekka Rinne was undoubtedly off his game, and the skaters played loose in thier own end at times, but they kept applying pressure in the offensive end and eventually got rewarded for racking up that 43-28 SOG advantage.
Personally, I liked NHL.com's 3 Stars of the Game better than the local TV selection:
1. Steve Sullivan, 2 goals and an assist
2. David Legwand, 2 goals on 8 shots
3. Jason Arnott, GW goal and 2 assists