Mired in the midst of a season-long four game losing streak and allowing 17 goals in the same span, Nashville had to either find a way to plug the deluge of scoring or find another option in net. Against the Chicago Blackhawks, tops in the Central Division and one of the better teams in the National Hockey League, the Predators decided to give Marek Mazanec his second straight start after being pulled at the start of the third period last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
To the benefit of Nashville, Mazanec faired much better than he did against the Penguins, stopping 39 shots to record his first career NHL win, a 7-2 victory against Chicago.
“He’s been really great for us. If you look at the games, you might think otherwise. We typically haven’t given him the offensive or defensive support he needs, but that was different tonight. He played really well tonight,” said Shea Weber.
The Blackhawks were playing without skilled right winger Marian Hossa, but that didn’t stop Chicago from putting the pressure on Nashville the entire night. While they only put seven shots towards Mazanec in the first period, they registered 34 in the next two periods including 35 more that were either missed or blocked by Predators players.
“I’m definitely more comfortable facing more shots during a game. I don’t want to wait for a shot for five minutes. It was a good game for me because they shot from every position,” said Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec. “Everyone played a really great game today. The defensive and offensive players were awesome, and we scored a lot of goals and blocked a lot of shots.”
After Nashville’s fourth goal, the Blackhawks finally got on the board with a Patrick Kane wrist-shot only 26 seconds later. Fighting back an onslaught of Chicago shots on net in the final 76 seconds of the second period, the rookie Czech goaltender stood tall and patient in net for the Predators.
“He’s a really good goalie. He sees the puck so well, you can tell in practice. He works really hard and the best thing about him is that he’s so calm back there, he doesn’t panic. He makes the saves he’s gotta make, he don’t try to do anything special. He’s just a calm guy and plays with a lot of confidence, and that’s what we need,” said Predators winger Patric Hornqvist. ”He’s going to remember this his entire life and he got the puck. It’s a big day for the kid.”
With inconsistent goaltending as of late and rumors swirling that Nashville could find themselves making a trade to bring a veteran goaltender into the fold until Rinne returns, the Predators desperately needed a cumulative team effort. While Mazanec has played very strong in his three outing for Nashville, he finally received strong play in front of him and a considerable amount of goal-support to earn himself and the Predators a very important victory.
Nashville heads back out on the road this week for a two game swing against Eastern Conference foe and former Central Division rival the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday and the Phil Kessel-led Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday before heading back to Nashville to square off against the New York Rangers on Saturday. With the losing streak snapped, the Predators hope to build on their strong outing against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Having a confident, calm, and collected goaltender like Mazanec in net will clearly help them along the way.
Photo Credit Sarah Fuqua
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