(Photo by: John Russell/Getty Images)
Hockey fans in Nashville saw something they have never seen before, and that was a stretch of five unanswered goals being scored in less than eight minutes. The Phoenix Coyotes did so and defeated the Nashville Predators 7-4. “We weren’t ready, we weren’t prepared,” said captain Shea Weber. “The start was unacceptable.”
There were too many passengers throughout the game and some of the go-to guys didn’t show much energy, which led to this defensive lapse for the Predators. The offense was productive throughout the night allowing the fans to experience a little joy by getting free frosties. "We didn't reengage, which cost us the game early," said head coach Barry Trotz. "Maybe we showed a little bit of our imaturity as a group."
Both teams didn’t play their usual style. What was predicted entering the game was a low scoring affair because both coaches preach defense first with gritty goals. That didn’t happen tonight because it looked like a pond hockey game at time during the game.
The first period was a scoring spectacle that broke the Predators’ record of goals scored by each team in one game. The original record was seven, but the new record was set at nine goals Thursday night.
1:46 in was when it all started. Martin Hanzal scored a goal from the near corner, an almost impossible goal, past Pekka Rinne along the right post. Rinne’s night only went downhill from there.
Two minutes later, Radim Vrbata scored to take a two goal lead. Vrbata entered the slot from behind the net untouched and slipped the puck under Rinne’s leg pad. Barry Trotz called a timeout following the goal to regroup his troops.
David Moss made it 3-0 after capitalizing on a rebound left by Rinne. Chris Mason came in for temporary relief as Rinne was pulled. Matthew Lombardi and Keith Yandle added two more before taking a 5-0 lead with 11:34 left in the first period. Lombardi’s goal gave him his 100th career goal in the NHL.
Nashville answered back 34 seconds later with a two goal run of their own 30 seconds apart. David Legwand out the Predators on the board thanks to a great spin-around feed from Jonathon Blum. Rich Clune deflected Roman Josi’s shot out of midair and into the net to cut the lead to three goals. Clune’s goal was reviewed, but stood as called.
15:57 in, Vrbata scored on Chris Mason the same way Hanzal scored on Pekka Rinne earlier in the period from the corner to regain a four goal lead. 32 seconds later, Gabriel Bourque tipped a puck in the air and into the net to answer back. The game seemed the settle down after Bourque’s goal.
After a wild first period, the Coyotes went to the dressing room with a 6-3 lead.
Entering the second period, Rinne came back into the game after Mason gave up three goals once he came into relief. Rinne was pulled earlier in the game after giving up as many goals as Mason. It is a rare sighting to see a coach do that, but it is legal. Rinne adjusted his game during the intermission and was much more focused in an attempt to show Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff that it was the right choice bringing him back in.
However, the defense became lazy in clearing pucks out as Antoine Vermette was able to make the score 7-3. Rinne was outstretched, but couldn’t get over quick enough before Vermette could tap the puck into the net. Following the goal, the all-star goaltender looked disgruntled as you could see it in his eyes.
At the midway point of the second period, Shea Weber’s slap shot broke glass behind Jason LaBarbera. After the shot, there was a big crack in the glass that had to be replaced and forced the game to be stopped for quite some time.
The second period ended with Nashville not being able to muster up anything on two power plays or on the even strength.
Weber had the lone goal in the third period as he hammered the puck under LaBarbera’s arm. Fisher’s drop pass gave the captain a perfect setup to slap-shot a goal home.
Fisher didn’t give up and continued to show heart even though the lead was out of reach. He blocked a shot in the lower arm that injured him. After returning to his feet, Fisher went to the dressing room with under four minutes to play.
Despite throwing every puck towards the net including the kitchen sink, the Predators were unable to cut into the ‘Yotes lead any more. Phoenix won the game 7-4.
Line Up Report
#35 Pekka Rinne*
#30 Chris Mason*
#1 Jason LaBarbera
Predators Scratches: #15 C Craig Smith (conditioning assignment), #22 D Scott Hannan and #24 W Matt Halischuk
Coyotes Scratches: #24 C Kyle Chipchura and #28 W Lauri Korpikoski
Sullivan’s 1000th Game: Former Predator Steve Sullivan celebrated his 1,000th game with a win as a Phoenix Coyote at a place he calls “home”. “The timing couldn’t be better,” said Sullivan. “I hope to always be remembered as a Predator.”
After a video montage on the megatron, Sullivan stood up from the bench and acknowledged the tribute. The ex-Pred appeared to be emotional as everyone at Bridgestone Arena stood and congratulated him.
Before the game, GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz presented Sullivan a big plaque with pictures of him in the Predators’ uniform on the ice and one with his entire family wearing the jersey.
Despite his teammates scoring seven goals, Sullivan was held pointless thanks to a couple good plays by the Nashville defense shutting down his breakaway chances.
Warm up fight: The game heated up before the puck was even dropped. During pregame warm-ups, Keith Yandle and Rich Clune were aggressively chirping at each other at the center line. Paul Bissonnette came in as well to back Yandle up, while Clune just skated away.
The tension between Clune and Yandle carried over into game as after the whistle in front of LaBarbera, they exchange pushes and punches. Yandle nailed Clune in the face with his gloves on, while Clune pushed him to the ground. “We’ve been going at for years now,” said the Predator enforcer. “It started in the minors. Nothing big about it, it’s just hockey.”
Clune was the only one given a penalty however, which led to Yandle’s power play goal to give his team a 5-0 lead.
Double switch: Fans were able to see a rare game overall, but one thing that hardly ever happens is the double goaltender pull. After giving up his third goal 3:50 in, Pekka Rinne was pulled. Chris Mason, who entered the game, finished off the rest of the first period allowing three goals himself, but in 16:10.
Starting the second period, everyone assumed Mason would be back in, but instead a tall figure with the number 35 on his back returned to the pipes. The score was 6-3 at the time and the team had plenty of hope in a comeback, but one that could only be led by their star goaltender.
Many including myself, didn’t know a team could switch goaltenders twice in a game, but it turns out it is possible.
Goals and Assists
1-0 PHX: Martin Hanzal – unassisted at 1:46 in the 1st
2-0 PHX: Radim Vrbata – Klesla and Hanzal at 3:42 in the 1st
3-0 PHX: David Moss – Klinkhammer and Klesla (2) at 3:50 in the 1st
4-0 PHX: Matthew Lombardi – Klesla (3) and Boedker at 7:08 in the 1st
5-0 PHX: PP Keith Yandle – Vrbata and Doan at 8:26 in the 1st
5-1 PHX: David Legwand – Blum and Bourque at 9:03 in the 1st
5-2 PHX: Rich Clune – Josi and Hornqvist at 9:33 in the 1st
6-2 PHX: Radim Vrbata (2) – Klesla (4) and Hanzal (2) at 15:57 in the 1st
6-3 PHX: Gabriel Bourque – Legwand and Beck at 16:29 in the 1st
7-3 PHX: Antoine Vermette – Bissonnette and Schlemko at 2:44 in the 2nd
7-4 PHX: Shea Weber – Fisher and Erat at 10:02 of the 3rd
My Three Stars of the Game
1. Radim Vrbata: 2 Goals, Assist
2. Rostislav Klesla: 4 Assists
3. Martin Hanzal: Goal, 2 Assists