The Predators rebounded from two untimely losses earlier in the week to beat the Jets (barely) tonight. I say barely because they let Winnipeg back in late, though the game should have never been that close. Missed chances, particularly on the power play, reared their ugly head again.
Though, the thing about unconverted chances is that the team necessarily did something right to generate the chances in the first place. And in that sense, tonight's win was very much a continuation from Thursday of a good underlying game by the forwards.
One such forward, Alexander Radulov, demonstrated an impressive passing ability all game, finally getting rewarded 2:56 into the second. Three Jets defenders converged on Radulov in the neutral zone--a pretty impressive sign of respect this early in his comeback (or maybe the Jets just suck)--and Rudi slipped Matt Halischuk the puck on his backhand without hesitation. Halischuk was home free from there and put a slap shot past an otherwise good Ondrej Pavelec.
The other line that formed upon Radulov's arrival--Bourque/Spaling/Andrei--looked equally impressive tonight, and was rewarded when Gabriel Bourque scored in front off a Spaling rebound.
The sequence that lead to that goal probably wouldn't have happened with Tootoo (or whomever) still on the third line. Andrei Kostitsyn's size and puck handling ability allowed him to salvage the puck from a broken cycle, take it to the point, and create some space passing between him, Ellis, and Bouillon. This play opened up Spaling underneath in the slot, leading to Bourque's goal. Having Andrei Kostitsyn on the third line is a great residual effect of Radulov's arrival, as really only Erat, Wilson, and Alex himself can compete with that kind of puck-possession play.
Some bad shifts from Ellis-Bouillon, however, let the Jets back in it midway through the third, when Tim Stapleton snuck past three Preds to score.
After the Stapleton goal, though, the Predators stopped screwing around, and in an uncharacteristic turn of events, took the play to the Jets for the last five minutes. Oh the joys of life under the Radulov regime. Three lines that can score! Aggressive with a third period lead!
Highlights, notes & errata after the jump.
- I think Dirk has mentioned this in his game recaps before, but it's really annoying when the Preds get an offensive zone whistle early and Trotz puts out his checking line, as he did in the first minute of tonight's game. I understand wanting to put Gaustad out there to get the puck to Ellis, but it seems like a waste.
- Boy Radulov almost got the scoring started early with that great pass to Hornqvist from behind the net. Yea, I'm not so concerned about his transition to the North American ice anymore. Holy cow.
- Radulov had another great chance right afterwards, drawing a penalty in the process.
- Bourque was very good On the Forecheck™ all night. He also gets full marks for his goal and taking a Byfuglien shot to the unprotected area right above his knee. Before his goal, he also had a great shot at a one-timer in the slot, from Andrei, but he double clutched or something and got it off a second too late.
- The power play as a whole was OK--still lackadaisical entering the zone. Of particular interest, thought was the Ellis-Sergei-Andrei-Leggy-Rudi unit which we saw in full force for the first time tonight. That's a lot of firepower, but it still looked like they were figuring some things out, with both Ellis and Radulov seemingly wanting to run the point.
- Kevin Klein made two nice saves, taking one Hans Moleman style, 16:35 into the first.
- Thrashers fans (presumably) threw their old jerseys on the ice in some sort of weird protest toward the end of the game. Terry Crisp complained on the broadcast that coaches and players don't tolerate people disrespecting their sweater, but those are no one's sweater now, and I guess that's the point.
- Detroit scored four unanswered goals to come back against the Hurricanes and win 5-4. Damn you, Carolina. The Preds stay in fifth, for now.
- The Ads won, though, 2-0. Jeremy Smith with the shutout.