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Aftermath: Predators 5, Penguins 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Lange Highlights | Pre-Game Show
Mike Lange w/ Penguin GM Ray Shero on Jordan Staal
The Penguins suffered a heartbreaking loss to Nashville. They used some great transition work - and a couple of fortunate bounces - to run out to an early 3-0 lead in the game. Pittsburgh looked like it was about to win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly eight weeks … then everything fell apart.

Nashville, riding a five-game losing streak, was a team waiting to erupt. All it took was one goal. The Predators got their first goal of the game eight minutes into the second period and never looked back. Nashville controlled the play for the rest of the game and netted five-unanswered goals to flip a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 win.

It was a hard loss for the Penguins to swallow. Just when it appeared the team was going to break out of its slump, Pittsburgh slid back down. The answers aren’t going to come easy but the Penguins have to be true professionals and keep working until they find a solution.
(AP) - Ryan Suter's power-play goal at 9:04 of the third period broke a 3-3 tie, and the Nashville Predators beat the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-3, on Thursday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

Pittsburgh has lost six of its last seven games.

With Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi in the penalty box for interference, Suter fired a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. The puck deflected off of Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

Matt Cooke blocks a shot before heading the other way for a score (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Transition Game
Pittsburgh used its transition game to run out to an early 3-0 lead. The first goal started on a turnover in Pittsburgh’s zone. Sidney Crosby picked up the puck and went the other way for a 1-0 lead. On each of the other two goals, Pittsburgh blocked a shot and created an odd-man rush up ice that resulted in a score.

What Didn't Work: Protecting the Lead
Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead and looked like it would coast to a victory. However, one odd bounce on the goal post led to Nashville’s first goal and the entire game shifted in the Predators favor. The Predators dominated the play after that and converted three more unanswered scores to gain a 4-3 advantage. The Penguins have been no strangers to blowing leads this season. On occasion they were still able to pull off a victory. However, this time it cost them two points.
Sidney Crosby recorded two assists against the Predators to help the team jump out to an early 3-0 advantage. Crosby made a great effort for the first score. He picked up a turnover high in the Nashville zone. Then he pulled the puck through two Predators before sending a perfect one-timer pass to Petr Sykora. On the second goal, Crosby blocked a shot and then began a quick transition the other way. After dishing the puck he skated hard to the net, drawing two Predators and freeing up Jordan Staal, who eventually was credited with the score.
Sidney Crosby flashed amazing hands and speed to help the Penguins score the game’s opening goal. First, he picked up a David Legwand turnover in the Pittsburgh zone and outraced the Predators up the ice, setting up Jordan Staal for a one-timer. Nashville was running around in its own zone when defenseman Dan Hamhuis tried to get the puck ahead to forward Martin Erat. However, Erat couldn’t handle the pass and Crosby picked up the turnover, stick handled through two Predators and made a perfect pass to Petr Sykora. “Petr Gun” buried a one-timer to get Pittsburgh on the board. Pittsburgh 1, Nashville 0.

A fortunate bounce allowed the Penguins to take a 2-0 lead. Crosby lost a faceoff in the Pittsburgh zone but blocked a shot attempt and started a three-on-two rush the other way. He fed the puck to Tyler Kennedy and then went to the net, conveniently setting a pick for Staal in the high slot. Kennedy’s pass was behind Staal but the 20-year old collected the puck and sent a backhander on goal. Predators netminder Dan Ellis made the save. Then Ryan Suter’s attempted to clear the puck but he hit teammate Jason Arnott and it caromed into the net. Pittsburgh 2, Nashville 0.
The Penguins scored a second goal off of a blocked shot. Matt Cooke blocked a shot and turned up ice. Maxime Talbot jumped up ice to create a two-on-one with Suter dropping back. Cooke’s pass attempt was blocked by Suter’s stick. Suter whacked at the puck to clear it but broke his stick in the process. That allowed Cooke to re-collect the puck and feed Talbot for the tap in. It was Talbot’s first goal in 25 games. Pittsburgh 3, Nashville 0.

Nashville got on the board on Erat’s 10th goal of the season. Legwand sent a shot on net. The puck died near the post and Fleury lost track of it. Erat poked the puck free to his backhand and roofed it over a flailing Fleury. Pittsburgh 3, Nashville 1.

Nashville notched a short-handed score to cut into Pittsburgh’s lead. Ryan Whitney couldn’t handle a pass at the near blue line. Erat picked up the puck and Legwand jumped up ice to create a two-on-one with Philippe Boucher the lone Penguin back. Boucher got his stick along the ice to cut off the pass but Erat flipped the puck over Boucher’s stick and Legwand one-timed it into the net. Pittsburgh 3, Nashville 2.

Nashville’s relentless effort paid off with the game-tying goal with less than a minute to play in the second period. Jerred Smithson picked up the puck in the lower near circle. He skated towards the goal and sent a shot that appeared to deflect off of Mark Eaton’s stick and flipped over Marc-Andre Fleury’s shoulder. Pittsburgh 3, Nashville 3.

The Predators flipped a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 advantage on Suter’s power-play goal halfway through the third period. Suter slapped a shot from the blue line that hit Eaton’s glove and deflected over the shoulder of Fleury. Nashville 4, Pittsburgh 3.

Defenseman Greg Zanon ended the game with an empty-net score with 23 seconds left in the game for Nashville’s fifth unanswered goal. Nashville 5, Pittsburgh 3.
Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko did not dress after each suffered undisclosed injuries in the team’s previous game. Jordan Staal was elevated to the top line with Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy. But it didn’t take long for head coach Michel Therrien to put Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Maxime Talbot together and reunited the Matt Cooke-Staal-Kennedy combination. Alex Goligoski saw action at forward on the third line. Hal Gill was a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game.

Two immediate observations on the Nashville Predators: Speed and pressure. Nashville is a team built on speed and that was obvious throughout the game. The entire roster is quick on its skates, including the defensive corps. The Predators use that speed to play an up-tempo and high pressure style. They didn’t give the Penguins any room to operate. Nashville jumped in the Penguins’ face and forced them to make quick decisions with the puck.

The Predators took complete control of the game after scoring their first goal eight minutes into the second period. Nashville outshot Pittsburgh, 17-5, in the second frame and dominated the play, even while on the penalty kill. Nashville translated the momentum into goals, scoring three in an 11:08 span to tie the game.

Staal came inches from notching the game-tying goal with less than a minute left in regulation. There was a scrum in front of the Predators net. Goalie Pekka Rinne, who replaced Dan Ellis after Pittsburgh’s second goal, was out of position. Staal desperately tried to get to a loose puck with a wide-open net but Radek Bonk batted the puck away a split second before Staal could get his stick on the puck.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 20-18-4 on the year, with an 11-9-2 mark on the road. Pittsburgh is 1-6-0 in its last seven games. 

> Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead with goals from Petr Sykora (16), Jordan Staal (12) and Maxime Talbot (5). The Predators responded with five-unanswered goals. Nashville notched three in the second period to tie the game, 3-3, on scores by Martin Erat (10), David Legwand (7) and Jerred Smithson (3). Ryan Suter gave the Predators the lead with a power-play goal 9:04 into the third period. Greg Zanon netted an empty-netter with 23 seconds left.

> Evgeni Malkin didn’t score against Nashville but still leads the NHL in points with 63 (15G-48A). Malkin’s 48 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby recorded two assists against the Predators. He is second (tied) in the league in scoring with 53 points (16G-37A). His 37 assists are third (tied) most in the league.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves in the losing effort.

> Petr Sykora notched his 16th goal of the season. He has 19 points in his last 18 games (11G-8A). In his past 14 games, Sykora has nine goals and six assists for 15 points.

> Jordan Staal scored his first goal in 11 games against the Predators.

> Maxime Talbot notched his first goal in 25 games with a score against Nashville.
1. Martin Erat, NSH
2. David Legwand, NSH
3. Sidney Crosby, PIT
"We didn't deserve to win the hockey game.
You can't cut corners and for us we didn't play
well enough throughout the whole game."
- Sidney Crosby told the AP


Author: Sam Kasan

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