The Nashville Predators fell to the New Jersey Devils 5-2 tonight, thanks to another ill-timed penalty and some boneheaded defensive breakdowns. Cal O'Reilly and Jordin Tootoo scored for Nashville, while Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for New Jersey.
Continue below for the recap and analysis.
Early on in the game, Pekka Rinne had to be sharp for Nashville. Just a few minutes in, Ilya Kovalchuk waltzed across the blue line and Shea Weber-ed a slapshot that rang loudly off the crossbar. Moments later, Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus combined on a bit of a broken play that left Rinne out of position, but he was able to come across and make the save.
It didn't take long, though, for New Jersey to strike. At 9:49 of the 1st, Jamie Langenbrunner came in on goal, but didn't shoot, drawing Rinne and entirely too many defenders with him. He merely dropped the puck back to Travis Zajac who slid it into an open net. Not long later, both Francis Bouillon and Dan Hamhuis took hooking penalties, resulting in a lengthy five on three. Miraculously, Nashville killed it off, resulting in the following...
Late in the opening frame, Dainius Zubrus was sent to the box for tripping. It was then that Colin Wilson and Cal O'Reilly went to work. Dan Hamhuis deftly kept the puck in at the blueline, and fed Wilson along the half-wall. Wilson showed great patience with his pass, as he threaded the needle between two defenders to O'Reilly, who promptly sent it top shelf on Brodeur. With seconds remaining in the 1st, Patrik Elias was sprung for a breakaway which could've really dampened my mood, but he was stoned by the pad of Pekka Rinne, and the period ended.
The second period started with a bang. Just 46 seconds in, on what seemed like your run of the mill zone entry, David Legwand passed to Jordin Tootoo, who put a seemingly harmless wrister on net that slipped through Brodeur's five hole, and just like that it was 2-1. Unfortunately, just minutes later, Patrik Elias scored on a very similar play. He was all alone in Nashville's zone and cranked a slapper right past Rinne which Pekka should save every day of the week, but didn't.
Other than the two scores, the 2nd period didn't provide much to report. The teams traded few scoring chances, and Nashville significantly improved their puck possession and defensive play. One notable thing, though, was Colin White's blatant slewfoot of Jordin Tootoo that was only punished by a holding minor. Tootoo would've been justified in retaliating, but kept his cool and provided his team a power play. Nashville was unable to convert, and the period was closed with the game 2-2.
Early in the third, David Legwand took a penalty for high-sticking Brodeur. This was notable for two reasons. One, the Predators killed it off with aplomb, clearing the zone like they haven't in quite some time. Second, because while going down to block a shot, Joel Ward took a slapshot directly to the head. He was dazed, obviously, but returned to the game. That'll be something to keep an eye on Sunday.
Midway through the period, the Predators' defense broke down once more. Patrik Elias was skating along the boards, but inexplicably drew four defenders. This left, of all people, Ilya Kovalchuk alone in the slot. Elias flicked the puck to him and he snapped it home. Granted, Rinne should've stopped it, but it was poor defense once again by Nashville.
Not long after, Dan Hamhuis was sent to the box for tripping. On the ensuing power play, Ilya Kovalchuk fired a shot at a strange angle, which bounced off of Shea Weber's skate straight to Zach Parise, who sent it into the back of the net.
The Predators' garnered a power play late, but were unable to convert and Jamie Langenbrunner slotted an empty netter to put the game away.
It was another typical Predator loss. Two horrific defensive errors lead to goals (Zajac's, Kovalchuk's), while a late Hamhuis penalty led to the Parise marker. Pekka Rinne was mediocre once again, especially on Elias' goal. A couple of positives to take away were a great penalty kill, and the great play of both O'Reilly and Wilson. Time to put this one in the rearview mirror as Nashville heads to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
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Who is your Predator of the game?
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Cal O'Reilly, PPG
Jordin Tootoo, goal, great discipline
Colin Wilson, awesome assist