RECAP: Preds edge Kings in whale of a hockey game

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
RECAP: Preds edge Kings in whale of a hockey game

A Shea Weber blast off the post, a Filip Forsberg dangle and shot off the inside of the post and a James Neal snipe that trickled over the goalies shoulder and missed the goal line by an inch.

And that was just in overtime.

In front of 17,181 at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings played one whale of a hockey game but, in the end, it was the Predators who would win by way of the shootout.

Pekka Rinne was outstanding, making 18 saves plus all six in the shootout. Rinne is now 14-3-1 and tied with Vancouver’s Ryan Miller for the league lead in wins.

“He’s probably the best goalie in this league,” Calle Jarnkrok said. “He’s a big part of us winning hockey games. He’s been playing so good since the beginning of the year and, if he keeps playing like this, we’re going to be a good team.”

On this night, the message from the coaching staff to the Predators players was that this was a great measuring stick. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings were in town and vulnerable. Coming into the night, LA had won just a single game on the road. Could Nashville force them to keep that trend?

“They are a big and strong team and very experienced, solid from top to bottom,” Eric Nystrom said. “You know you have to bring you’re A game and they are used to teams bringing their A game being in an atmosphere like that.”

It took over four minutes for either team to register a shot on goal but once they did? Rollercoaster.

In the first period, Colin Wilson corralled the puck along the Kings bench area and whipped a cross-ice pass to a breaking Craig Smith. Smith skated in untouched and snapped a shot past Martin Jones to open the scoring.

It was all Nashville during the first period but, on one of their few offensive chances, Los Angeles was able to tie the game. Jamie McBain redirected a Justin Williams shot with his skate and into the net, giving the Kings an equalizer when, really, they had no business being in the game at that point.

“We just had to keep going,” Jarnkrok said about being tied despite dominating play. “We just try to be better in the next period. That’s what we’ve been doing all year and that’s what we have to keep doing.”

On just their eighth shot of the game, the Kings pounced early in the second. Marian Gaborik notched his fourth of the season when he broke in on a partial breakaway and put it past Rinne for the 2-1 lead.

“If you give them opportunities, they’re going to capitalize,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We knew it was going to be difficult to generate scoring chances but I feel like we were able to do that pretty consistently. They got opportunities and, when they did, they certainly made the most of them.”

Just when it looked like Los Angeles had evened things out in regards to the overall play, the Predators re-tied the contest. Using the shot that made him famous with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires and Team Canada at the World Juniors, Ryan Ellis wound up and blasted a rocket past Jones to make it 2-2.

Then, just moments later, Taylor Beck spun to avoid his checker and put a shot on net. That shot was tipped by Eric Nystrom on its way in and it gave the hosts their lead back.

“I thought we played a pretty good hockey game from start to finish,” Laviolette said. “The mindset was that we just got to keep playing our game. We liked what we were doing on the ice and that was the result of it.”

In what was nearly a carbon copy of the second period, the Kings tallied early in the third as well. Defenseman Drew Doughty went coast-to-coast to score his second of the season and put the teams even once again.

A tremendous overtime session that featured chances for both teams including two posts and a near miss by the Predators, would turn into a shootout since both goaltenders stood firm.

In said shootout, James Neal scored in the sixth round and Rinne stopped all six shots he faced to earn the home team the victory.

“Every time we play a new team, especially a team that is as talented as they are, we want to show the rest of the League who we are and that we are not winning by flukes,” Wilson said. “It was good to beat them. We have beaten a lot of great teams and I think people are going to start talking about us a little more.”

As they should. With Forsberg one of the front runners for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, Shea Weber a perennial Norris Trophy candidate for best defenseman and the vastly underappreciated Rinne between the pipes, this hockey club is now 14-5-2 and tied for the Central Division lead with the St. Louis Blues.

But one game at a time, right? The Predators will continue their homestand by taking on the Edmonton Oilers on Thanksgiving.

“You can’t win one in a big game and then lose three,” Laviolette said. “I think the biggest thing is just to try to stay consistent with what we’re doing. Leave here tonight, get ready for work tomorrow because we have another hockey game to win.”

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:42 remaining in regulation):
1. Craig Smith (NSH)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Marion Gaborik (LA)

1. Craig Smith (NSH)
2. Colin Wilson (NSH)
3. Marion Gaborik (LA)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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