[Added by Sam Page, 03/13/11 12:12 AM EST ]
Although the final score shows a two goal win, the Predators barely held on to a close game against the Avs tonight. Each team had plenty of chances, but the Predators managed to clamp down in the crucial second half of the third period to ice the win.
The scoring opened when Shea Weber pounded home a rebound right as time expired on a Predators power play. That goal won't count toward Nashville's poor PP%, but it was very much a result of the man-advantage. A takeaway by Blake Geoffrion at 11:30 in the first lead to a series of rebounds, one of which Matt Halischuk finally cashed in. Geoffrion's nice play typified a period of solid forechecking on Colorado's notoriously shaky defense. The Preds' ability to get the puck deep and pursue would wane, however, later in the game, letting Colorado pull closer.
The Avalanche tallied their first goal, when Ryan O'Reilly, Cal's kid brother, scored off a rebound. Colorado had about 10 golden chances on that one sequence, with Blum, Klein, Erat, and Legwand collectively unable to clear the puck out of the crease. Joel Ward answered, with a beautiful unassisted breakaway goal. After breaking his stick for the 64th time this season, Ward skated to the bench, got a new stick, intercepted a Corado clear, danced Peter Budaj out of his pants, and simply slid the puck in the empty net. What's more unbelievable: that goal or that Ward had done the exact same move (and celebration) before?
(SKIP TO 3:22)
Colorado dictated the pace of the period, though, and Dave Winnick scored by banking a shot off Colin Wilson's leg.
As the period ended, Jordin Tootoo reenergized the crowd with a pretty epic fight against Ryan Wilson. Toots began by beating the much bigger Wilson's face in, but the referees actually let the bout carry on for a while. Wilson came back some, but Tootoo landed the better punches and pumped the crowd up with a screaming, WWE-style celebration lap at the end.
The Predators came out a little flat in the third, but Pekka Rinne did his usual acrobatics to keep them in the game. Colorado made a valiant final push to send the game to overtime, but an incredible final effort for Ryan Suter and a gratuitous empty-netter from Martin Erat sent the fans home happy.
Other observations after the jump.
- Smithson-Spaling-Hornqvist debuted as one of the more ill-conceived lines of the season. Those three couldn't run with the Avs' good team speed. Patric Hornqvist has probably been the player most hurt by the shuffling lines, as he's lost consistent ice time and good offensive linemates. The Predators are going to need Hornqvist in these crucial final weeks. If playing Dumont means Trotz abandons this stupid two checking-line configuration, I'm all for it.
- Geoffrion and Wilson played under 8 minutes each. Why? I didn't hear either were injured. They both basically disappeared by the third period. Notice how Trotz calls Wilson out for not scoring goals, yet only puts him out there for 7 minutes with Jerred Smithson and Spaling. Self-fulfilling scapegoats.
- Weber and Suter are going to be leaned on heavily these next 13 games. 27:00 each tonight.
- Vancouver has come back to take the lead against Calgary. Yes!
- Good game to see in person. Tootoo's craziness+Ward's sick move+the ever popular Weber goal.