The madness of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is upon us, but I wanted to make sure I completed our look at some of the most memorable moments of the 2011-2012 Predators season, as chosen by the various hockey writers around Nashville. This series celebrates events on and off the ice, some momentous, some just plain silly. I hope you enjoy them. Today marks the final installment - that wild December 22 home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as chosen by Kristopher Martel at The Predatorial.
The Nashville Predators have had their way with the Columbus Blue Jackets over the years, but there was legitimate reason for concern early in the season that the situation might be taking a turn. Columbus had loaded up with some impressive talent over the summer, and won their first trip to Nashville, ending a multi-year victory drought for the BJ's at Bridgestone Arena.
Could this be the year that Columbus finally stood up and pushed the Predators aside? Nah, don't be silly - but that December 22 game was one for the all-time scrapbook...
This was the game in which Jeff Carter notched a first-period hat trick, and the Blue Jackets enjoyed a 4-1 lead after the first period. Slowly but surely, the Predators worked their way back into the game, but even with five minutes left in the third period, the Blue Jackets held a 5-4 lead and it looked like the fans would have to be content to go home with free Frosties, if not a victory.
But oh, those final five minutes! A power play score by David Legwand tied things up with 3:46 to go, but the real dagger came as Ryan Suter threaded a pass to Martin Erat for a game-winning goal with 9 seconds left, provoking a reaction from Marty that frankly I don't think we've seen before:
As fun as the comeback was, however, Kris was concerned in his recap over how they fell into such a deep hole in the first place:
Count ‘em...1, 2, 3, 4...FOUR powerplay goals given up this evening in Nashville's 6-5 win against Columbus. For a penalty kill that has been so stingy for nearly a decade, the Predators have flip-flopped their special teams efficiency this season with their powerplay being deadly and their penalty kill having sufficient problems nearing the halfway point of the season.
In the past four games, the Predators have been shorthanded a total of 16 times. 8 of those 16 times have been converted by the opposing special teams. Allowing a powerplay goal every other penalty is not a way to win games. Yes, Nashville is still for the most part finding ways to win these games, but for a once-proud penalty kill, what must Nashville do to get some kind of stable consistency?
Let's not take anything away from Nashville tonight, as this is one of the biggest character wins I've seen from this team in the 10 years I've been watching them, however in the long run you have to look at the big picture: Yes the powerplay is good, but what has to be done to get the penalty kill back to where it was?
Indeed, the team did indeed shore things up on the penalty kill afterward. Following this game, they went two weeks (6 games) without giving up another power play goal, and a strong push the rest of the way (aided in part by the acquisition of Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad) allowed the Preds to finish the season ranked 10th in penalty killing percentage, a pretty fine finish considering how things started.