East versus West, one vs. one, best of the east versus best of the west… last night at Bridgestone Arena it was a showdown of conference leaders as Nashville took a 3-2 overtime decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a great game to watch, but a game was a four round battle. The scoreless first period could be described as the first round of a heavyweight fight, the teams circled each other, tested each other as they looked for soft spots, throwing jabs and seeing what the reaction would be.
This round would be scored even by the judges.
Round two saw a couple of haymakers landed, counter punches, combinations that landed and did damage as Nashville broke through rookie Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, first on a semi-controversial first goal from Seth Jones that was initially waived off but after a conference, the goal was awarded. Then, on a sweet garbage goal from Taylor Beck who deposited a rebound off the post to put the Predators up 2-0… as the second round ended, the Lightning were reeling. Score that one for the Predators… and given how well the Predators have dominated the third period this season, Pred Nation was confident.
Then, almost like a Rocky movie, the Lightning came back in the third period, throwing lefts and rights, taking the fight to the Predators and landing a couple of punches that rocked Nashville back, tying the game eight minutes into the period and setting up a thrilling finish as the Predators gathered themselves and rode some excellent goaltending from Pekka Rinne and solid defensive work to push the game to overtime. Score round three for the Lightning in one of the first times the Predators have been outplayed in a third period this season.
As the bell rang for the final round the teams went at each other, not seeming to be satisfied to get to the shootout, until finally… James Neal landed the knockout blow with just :33 seconds remaining in the overtime, picking up a nice feed from Roman Josi, counter punching the Tampa attack, taking the puck down the middle, going five hole on the rookie goaltender to seal the win on a TKO.
These teams have a rematch at Amalie Arena in Tampa in early March… circle that one gang, ‘cause it will be a good one. Preds practice today then welcome Winnipeg to town tomorrow night. 7pm game time, no local TV so you better get your tickets before they are gone…
Here are your highlights, courtesy of nhl.com…
I’d like you to know about the Peterson for Parkinson’s fundraiser happening this coming Monday, February 16th at the Franklin Theatre. It’s called “Songwriters and Storytellers” and will feature performances from some of Nashville’s premier songwriters. Writers of hits for artists like Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean… just to name a few. For more information, including how to purchase tickets Click here. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8pm… it should be an awesome show for a great cause.
– Standings update after play on 2/10 – The Predators extended their lead in the race for the President’s Trophy, they lead the Ducks by three points, Tampa Bay and St. Louis by four. The Preds have a four point lead in the division over the Blues and a nine point bulge over the Blackhawks, all three teams have played 54 games. The Predators have a game in hand over Anaheim and two games in hand over Tampa Bay.
– The Western Wild Card still has Winnipeg (Games played – 56) in the first Wild Card and now has Vancouver (52) in the second. Calgary (54) is second in the Pacific tied in points with San Jose (55). Minnesota (53) trails the final playoff spot by two points. Los Angeles (53) and Dallas (53) trails the final playoff spot by three points, Colorado (54) trails by six.
– You could see the difference in Pekka Rinne’s body language in last night’s game. He scrambled less and had much better positioning… seeming calmer between the pipes as he won his league leading 31st game.
– I watched Viktor Stalberg closely last night and thought he played one of his best games as a Pred. His speed was a key factor on Jones’ goal and he seemed to up his game… perhaps the time in Milwaukee did him some good.
– I was incredibly impressed with Andrei Vasilevskiy last night, he made some absolutely spectacular saves to keep the game close in the first two periods. He was a victim of Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s decision to go three forwards and one defenseman in the last minute of OT.
– Interesting to review the ice time stats last night… my son pointed out to me via text that the time on ice was fairly evenly distributed among Nashville’s forwards, rolling four lines consistently seemed to pay off with fresher legs in the overtime.
– Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel is going to get a mid-season break courtesy of the DOPS… the phone hearing will happen today
Nasty and dangerous hit… suspension has to be coming. Roussel was given five and a game for the cross-check.
– The Ducks lost their third straight last night by the score of 6-2… to the Florida Freakin’ Panthers! Yikes… Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled after giving up three goals on nine shots. John Gibson took over… and didn’t do much better. There may be some issues in Anaheim.
– In a quote that you expect to see in JR Lind’s Twitter feed, Maple Leaf coach Peter Horachek described his team’s play very succinctly last night … “It starts with the whole give-a-(expletive) meter has to be higher.”
– Do the Oilers have to sacrifice a live chicken or something? Anything to get the obvious curse off this team, Taylor Hall was placed on IR yesterday… holy cow!
– Minnesota is on a helluva run, but losing their second leading goal scorer to a season ending injury certainly is a blow. Jason Zucker broke his collarbone during Monday’s win over Vancouver. For a low scoring team like the Wild… this one could hurt.
– The Las Vegas season ticket drive is on. It officially began at 1:30 Pacific Time yesterday.
– Three games in the NHL tonight – Red Wings @ Penguins, Canucks @ Blackhawks, Capitals @ Sharks.
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