On a night when the Nashville Predators played their first ever home game in the second round of the NHL playoffs, in front of hordes of national media, with a chance to take a series lead over the presumptive Stanley Cup favorites, they decided to forgo the first two periods of the hockey game, and subsequently fall in overtime 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks.
It was a game that the Predators hung around in far longer than they should have, but also had plenty of chances to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It's not over by a long shot - Nashville fought back to tie the game late in the third - but frustration now reigns.
David Legwand and Joel Ward scored for Nashville, while Pekka Rinne made 44 saves in the loss.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
- It's been a problem all season, but Nashville's unwillingness or inability to put shots on net is astounding. Eight shots through one period and twelve through two will get you beaten pretty much all the time. The Canucks are a good defensive team, certainly, but not so good that you can't shoot the puck. They picked it up in the third period, but the lackluster play through 40 minutes ensured that the Preds did not deserve to win this game.
- Leading the Predators in playoff points, Joel Ward has put on a masterful performance during the 2010-11 postseason. An impending UFA, Ward has played well defensively, played physically, and scored several clutch goals, particularly the game-tier tonight on a slightly unconventional wraparound. Joel Ward contract negotiations are not often discussed, but the man deserves a new deal.
- Ryan Kesler finally broke out of his slump tonight, scoring his first and second goals of the playoffs. On his first marker, he can thank Nashville's dynamic penalty killing duo of Kevin Klein and Shane O`Brien. Klein pinched into the offensive zone shorthanded, which allowed an odd man rush the other way. Christian Ehrhoff corralled the puck behind the net, and with Kesler waiting in front, O'Brien dropped to one knee in an attempt to do...something. I'm not sure what, but the result speaks for itself.
- The game winning goal was made of simpler stuff, with Kesler redirecting a point shot past Rinne. The real story, though, was how he drew the call that put Shea Weber into the penalty box for "hooking", which can apparently be defined as having your stick in the vicinity of another player's extremities. Who knew? A tough way to lose a playoff game, regardless of how much they may have deserved to do so. David Legwand said(for which he can probably expect a fine) that "I don't know if Timmy Peel (tonight's referee) had a date or something, but he wanted to get outta here pretty quick."
- Pekka Rinne is really good at hockey. That's the only explanation I have.
- Despite leading the Nashville Predators in goals during the regular season, Sergei Kostitsyn has been a non-factor for most of the postseason, but particularly in the conference semifinals. He's not only not scoring goals, but he's stopped creating plays, which is his biggest strength. If the Predators are going to have further success in these playoffs, SK74 needs to step up one way or the other.
- One of the lone bright spots tonight was the play of Nashville's penalty kill on David Legwand's shorthanded goal. Legwand made a tough play to dig the puck out from behind the net, and Nick Spaling completed a pass to Ryan Suter, who made his way (again) behind the goal line. Suter's movement drew Luongo out of the net, and Legwand converted the layup.
- Against the Ducks, Nashville's power play scored six times in six games. They won the series. Against Vancouver, they've yet to score, and trail in the series 2-1. Do the math.
- Until his lines got thrown into the blender, Barry Trotz matched the five man unit of Nick Spaling, Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo, Shea Weber, and Ryan Suter against Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The twins finished -2, but the Predators lost the game. It's hard to say if that bears any meaning, but I do think the Preds need to do a better job finding a good balance between overcompensating for the Sedins and not paying Ryan Kesler enough attention.
- Steve Sullivan left the game in the third period with what was termed a lower body injury (Dan Hamhuis appeared to clip his knee). No reports as of yet, but if Sullivan can't go on Thursday, will it finally be Colin Wilson's turn to make an impact?
And so, despite an at-times raucous home crowd decked entirely in gold (an effort which looked fantastic on TV), the Nashville Predators have gone from owning the series' momentum to gifting it right back to Vancouver. Nashville appears to be relying solely on Pekka Rinne - they're not shooting, they can't score on the power play, they can't kill penalties, they've given back the Canucks their home ice advantage, and they're down 2 games to 1.
That must all change Thursday night.