The Nashville Predators, once again, rode Pekka Rinne’s shutout efforts to survive a brutally unexciting game in Phoenix and won 2-0. Playing without Captain Jason Arnott, it was again a game of mix and match line combinations.
J P Dumont scored the only goal the Predators needed at 14:01 in the second period. J P received a pass from Steve Sullivan off of a face off in the Phoenix zone and one-timed it deep into the net. David Legwand added an empty netter with 31 seconds left to drive the final stake into the Coyote coffin.
Pekka Rinne never appeared in serious danger of letting a goal into the net. Phoenix only had 18 shots for the game, ten of which were in the final period. It is amazing how much of a calming Pekka has on the team and the fans when he is in net. This was his seventh shut out of the year, ranking him second in the NHL to fellow Calder Trophy candidate Steve Mason.
The shot imbalance in the first two periods was surprising for two teams that rank similarly in the category of offensive impotence. The Preds out shot the Desert Dogs 10-4 and 16-4 in the first two stanzas. In the final period Phoenix woke up somewhat and out shot the Preds 10-7.
In many ways this game appears to define what “Predator’s Hockey” means in this 2008-2009 season. Stellar goaltending and back and forth skating, resulting in the puck getting ground into the wall at every opportunity seems to be what this team is all about when they come out on top. There have been numerous games that have followed a similar pattern and are truly difficult to watch on television due to the few highlight like, grinding nature of the game.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth as these were two of the prettiest points in the standings we have seen this season. The Predators moved up to ninth place with 73 points and are only a point behind seventh place Dallas.
This game was a must win situation for the Predators who had followed their season high six game win streak with three losses in a row. The three point, overtime loss games have killed us in the standings this year. Our 34 “pure” wins would rank us seventh if the standings were legitimized with each game was only worth two points.
The Preds now head to California to attempt to duplicate their first ever California sweep that the completed in November. They will play Los Angeles on Monday, take Tuesday off, and then play back to backs against Anaheim and San Jose before returning home and getting a few days off. It is unclear when Jason Arnott and Radek Bonk will return to the lineup.
With 13 games left, the Predators will need to continue to play at their 7-2-1 in the last ten game pace to claim a playoff berth.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass