The Nashville Predators entered tonight's competition icing their healthiest team of the season, as Pekka Rinne made his first start since October. They were going to need all cylinders to be firing, as the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the league's best teams, found their way into Music City for their first game after their embarrassing loss at Soldier Field.
For most of the game, the Predators were neck and neck with the Penguins. Each team had 19 shots on goal, and the other shot attempts were pretty even as well. In fact, it seemed like the Predators were putting forth an extra effort just for their pal in net. Alas, Matt Niskanen scored twice, and Chris Kunitz put the icing on the cake as the Penguins took advantage of a rare visit to Tennesee.
- We missed you, Pekka. Even though he didn't get the win, Rinne looked spectacular in his long-awaited return. Many were concerned that he was being rushed back into the crease too soon. Those fears were, at least for now, laid to rest in just the first few minutes of the game. Rinne was making marvelous save after marvelous save, reminding us all of just how much of a game changer he is. Even the team in front of him seemed to realize it, as they were skating harder than they have in some time for most of the game. It's nice to see that Finnish giant impacts not only us, but the players on the ice as well.
- Moments after Craig Smith rang a puck off the crossbar, Paul Gaustad looked to have his ninth goal of the year. Nick Spaling threw the puck in front of the crease and Goose stuck out his leg, the puck bounced off his shin pad and through Marc-André Fleury. Good goal, said the officials on the ice. Not so fast, said the jerks in Toronto. There have been a lot of mistakes with "distinct kicking motion" goals this season. Whether they have been taken away when they shouldn't be, or called when they shouldn't be. Predators fans have a right to be upset, as that one was definitely a good goal.
- It didn't take very long for Niskanen to open the scoring in the 2nd period and quiet The Bridge. But Patric Hornqvist was having none of that pessimism, and got the crowd back in it just 12 seconds later. That's a nice change of pace from the "well here we go again" attitude that has seemed to hover around both players and fans (myself included) this season.
- So. Many. Freaking. Posts.
- Tanner Glass should stay out of deep pools of water for a little bit. He blocked so many shots tonight (including a handful of Weber blasts) that he no doubt has numerous puck-sized holes all over him.
- Shea Weber was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct minor in addition to a game misconduct at the end of the game. Yeah, Shea, we were frustrated as well.
Even though the Stars lost in regulation tonight, the Predators failed (yet again) to take advantage of a must win opportunity. Pekka Rinne coming back to the club is great and all, but it's too little too late. Phoenix or Vancouver will have two more points by night's end, which makes the hill that much harder to climb. The Predators may not be sellers tomorrow, but they certainly shouldn't be buyers. All that's really left to clear up is to see if David Legwand is still a Predator come tomorrow afternoon. You all know my stance on that.
I'll just leave this here for now:
Roll the video highlights...