From the very beginning the Minnesota game plan was to hit the Nashville Predators, take them out of any kind of rhythm, and then hopefully clean up whatever garbage comes about. They executed that to perfection and the Preds played down to the competition.
Nashville actually looked pretty strong in the opening portion of the first period. They broke through at 10:11 when Paul Gaustad picked up his first goal of the season after Craig Smith put a slick move on Ryan Suter and made him look like a rookie. The puck got loose in front of Niklas Backstrom and Gaustad put it away.
After killing off a Martin Erat hooking penalty, Marty got an opportunity for another breakaway goal similar to the one he scored last time against Minnesota. Niklas Backstrom came out to play the puck again and got there first; Erat pulled up immediately, made light contact with Backstrom, and both of them toppled over. Then a swarm of Wild players descended and Erat was kicked not once but twice while he was down. After he finally got back up he was then punched directly in front of a referee. And what happened? Coincidental minors to Erat and Backstrom – for roughing and delay of game, respectively. As to how they reached that resolution, your guess is as good as mine.
Late in the period Zenon Konopka tried to take our Roman Josi with a knee-on-knee hit. Brandon Yip flew in and knocked Konopka to the ice in defense of his teammate, resulting in another pair of coincidental minors. From there the game degenerated into a sloggy mess broken up by series of penalties taken by Minnesota players, leading to four fruitless Nashville power play opportunities. The Preds actually outshot Minnesota in the last two periods, 19-17, but they remained tied at 1-1 going to OT.
Once they got there, Paul Gaustad was given a penalty for violating a poorly written new faceoff rule. The linesman who dropped the puck whistled Gaustad for playing the puck with his hand, and Devin Setoguchi scored his first goal of the season on the ensuing power play to end the game.
- Faceoffs were Nashville’s bane tonight. Nick Spaling and Craig Smith lost all of theirs, and David Legwand and Mike Fisher lost more than half of theirs. Only Paul Gaustad was above 50 percent (at 58), and he took the terrible penalty that cost the Preds the game in the end.
- The rule that Paul Gaustad was penalized on is a new one and it’s buggy as hell. There was no intentional play of the puck with the hand, yet Goose was still technically in violation. Predlines staff writer M. LaVigne is going to have more on this later, but for now suffice to say the officials handed this game to the Wild by giving a Gaustad a two-minute penalty during 4-on-4 overtime.
- The end of the game was pretty terrible, no doubt about it, but the fact is that the Preds never should have been in position to lose it the way they did. They went 0-for-6 on the power play and looked listless through the entire second period. They turned the puck over at both blue lines and between them. And their passes weren’t crisp enough.
- The offense and the power play were the real problems for Nashville tonight. Poor breakout passes against aggressive forechecking teams haunted the Preds early in the season and that was the issue again tonight.
- The defense? Still stout, having only given up 5 goals in its last 15 periods plus three overtimes. Dany Heatley and Zach Parise were non-factors tonight, which is down to the team blocking shots and consistently taking good angles away from their opponents.
Chris Mason did everything he could to keep Nashville in this game, stopping 30 out of 32 shots. The only ones that got through were a tipped shot from the point and the winner on the 3-on-4 penalty kill in overtime. Picking up the point is pretty much down to him, and the time off for Pekka Rinne before tomorrow’s game with Chicago is just as valuable.
- Chicago is tomorrow. The Nashville Predators will need to look a lot better than they did tonight to win that game. If they can pull it off, though, they’ll have earned three points from a back-to-back.