By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators are the only team in the NHL to remain undefeated in regulation, but on Thursday night, they lost their third straight game in overtime. The Pittsburgh Penguins edged Nashville 4-3. Kris Letang ended the game with 1:11 left in the extra frame.
With shifts averaging a minute, and playing over 20 minutes of hockey during the game, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin led Pittsburgh’s offence. Crosby would end the night with 2 goals and an assist. Malkin had a goal and assisted on Crosby’s tying goal in the third period.
Nashville’s head coach Barry Trotz commented on the dominance of Crosby and Malkin. “It was hard to maintain [Crosby] and Malkin; there’s no question. They were good. We don’t get to see Sidney Crosby and Malkin very often, but when we do, up close and personal, they’re pretty dynamic.”
David Legwand got Nashville off to a fast start, scoring in the first minute of play, in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena. The Predators didn’t score at all in the first minute of play for the entire 2009-2010 season, but in 6 games this year have done so twice.
The Penguins thought they tied the game in the dying seconds of the first when Paul Martin’s shot got past Nashville starting goaltender, Pekka Rinne, but the goal was waved off because the buzzer had sounded to end the period.
The second period began the same way the first ended, with the Penguins on the attack. Malkin scored less than a minute into the period, just as Nashville had done in the first, to tie the game.
With Crosby in the penalty box for cross-checking, the Predators regained the lead 7 minutes later on the power play. Cody Franson’s slap shot from the point went through traffic and found the back of the net to give Nashville the 2-1 advantage.
Each time the Predators would take a lead, the Penguins would come back to tie the game. Crosby tied the game 2-2 with 12 minutes left to play in the middle frame.
The two teams exchanged goals in the third period as well with Patric Hornqvist getting his third goal of the year, followed by Crosby again tying the game for Pittsburgh.
Crosby said Thursday night’s success can be credited to the Penguins ability to stick with their own game plan. “It was tough. For the most part, I think we did a really good job of creating things, getting momentum and drawing penalties,” Crosby said, noting that “In the third with Hornqvist’s goal, they really didn’t have much until they got that chance. I think we just tried to stick with it. We got that third one and overtime was kind of 50-50. It was a good play from Dupuis and a big goal from Letang.”
The game was a physical one and had the feeling like a divisional rival, not a team played once a year. The physical dynamic of the game was cemented in the middle of the second period. Malkin hit Tootoo, but his feet left the ice. Kevin Klein took exception to the charge on Tootoo and hit Malkin. Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland went after Klein in defense of Malkin. The two fought. No penalty was called on Malkin, but Klein got a 5 minute major for fighting and an extra two minutes for roughing (on Malkin).
Crosby noted the hard hitting aspect of Thursday night’s game. Crosby said “it was a really high tempo. It was fast. Both teams were skating well. Obviously, for not playing one another that often, I think there was definitely a physical element to it. There was some good hockey at both ends.”
The penalty kill was solid, killing off all 5 Pittsburgh power plays. Trotz was happy with the team’s efforts when down a man. “I thought the penalty kill did a great job against a pretty dynamic power play that could do a lot of different things and show a lot of different looks.”
Rinne made 34 saves. Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves.
The Predators have now picked up points in all 6 games they have played. Back to back games on the schedule for this weekend with no Ryan Suter in the lineup is something Nashville has very little time to prepare.
Nashville visits Dallas Saturday night and Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. Predators upcoming home games Thursday night when the St. Louis Blues make their second trip to Smashville this season.