Let’s set the stage.
The Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks are tied 3-3 in overtime of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. In the playoffs, the overtime format is such that first goal wins. Forward Taylor Beck gets the puck in the neutral zone and is breaking in alone on rookie goalie Scott Darling in his first ever NHL playoff game. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith has lost position on Beck and, in desperation, puts his glove on the back of his pants and hauls him down. Best case scenario? A penalty shot. Worst case scenario? A two-minute power play.
Reality? No penalty at all.
The 17,225 inside Bridgestone Arena – as well as countless people watching at home — almost came unglued. The negative emotion in the stands was palpable but the players knew there was still a job to do.
“Emotions are high but, at the end of the day, it’s just part of the game,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “You have to keep your emotions in check and really focus more on your job. If you start getting frustrated, you start to drain yourself for no reason.”
Another great example as to why the players are professionals and the fans are, well… fans. Ribeiro and his teammates know that any misplaced energy is just energy not available to complete the end goal. And, needless to say, winning the game is a lot more important than complaining about a mistake by the officials.
“That’s a call that we’re looking to be made so that we can get a power play opportunity,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette admitted. “It’s frustrating but we did talk about our emotions and trying to keep them in check. We’ve done a pretty good job with that all year of trying to stay balanced through the course of the game. But it’s playoff hockey and everything factors into it.
“That was certainly a situation where you expect one thing to happen but it didn’t. But we’re moving on.”
Moving on is exactly what needs to happen. There’s still a task to do. Nobody can go back in time and fix the non-call so the only thing anybody can do is go out and even the series. Whether that happens or not is up to the players on the ice.
“It’s just one game,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “You have to stay even keel. Just focus, take the good out of Game One – I thought we played a really good game – and feel confident about ourselves.”
That said, there are certainly things to learn from.
“You can’t look at one instance and let your emotions get the best of you,” Preds captain Shea Weber said. “We need to do a little bit of a better job of that on Friday and not make our way to the penalty box as much as we did. We can’t give their power play the chance to do the damage they did on Wednesday night.”
Chicago went 2-for-6 on the man advantage and, truth be told, that’s what cost the game for the Predators, not the missed call in overtime.
Nashville will try to even the series at 1-1 starting at 8:30pm Central tonight.