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Mully's Musings: vs. Washington

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
Call it what you will.

The most entertaining game the Nashville Predators have played this season? The most nerve racking? The gutsiest?

For the coaches and players, only one thing mattered. The victory.

The Preds played a thriller against Washington on Tuesday, battling through a late deficit to win 3-1 over the Capitals at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was unflappable and, at times, unbelievable, and Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun – a former Pred – was nearly as good.

The Capitals broke through first when Troy Brouwer gave his team a 1-0 lead with 4:46 to go in regulation. But Nashville stormed right back 28 seconds later when Captain Shea Weber made a perfect pass to Martin Erat, who tied it at 1-1. And there would be no overtime session. With 24.3 seconds to go, Erat made a pretty pass to a streaking Colin Wilson who scored the game-winner. Weber added an empty-net goal.

The win was significant on several fronts. The Capitals entered with some of the world’s most elite players and Nashville wanted to continue to grab points at home after earning one against Montreal on Saturday. Alexander Ovechkin, who some believe is the best player in the world, finished with a -2 rating and didn’t record a point. Same for Nicklas Backstrom.

Nashville will try to continue its winning ways when Toronto comes to town on Thursday. But first, here are the musings…

Hard to put into words: When asked about Rinne’s performance, Nashville coach Barry Trotz had difficulty finding the words to describe it. Some of the players did, too. It was a night of highlight reel stops, athletic moves, and unmatched focus. He made 39 of 40 saves, and time and time again came up big in the biggest moments. The Capitals were on the power play at the end of the first, and Rinne made a great, sprawling save on a shot by Brooks Laich. He made four great saves in the first four minutes of the third to keep it at 0-0. One came when the Capitals were on a 2-on-1 early in the third. Ovechkin fired a shot, but Rinne made a great glove save. After each stellar performance, it is difficult to imagine how Rinne can top it. And then he does.

Weber up to the task: Trotz made no secret about wanting to match Weber and Ryan Suter against Washington’s top line, and it obviously worked. Weber had 22:06 of ice time, which is well below his average, but he used the extra ‘rest’ to go all out each time Washington’s best offensive weapons hit the ice. He had a big check on Ovechkin and sent a message, but knew when to play smart when his team needed him. His assist to Erat was perfect, and his defensive effort alongside Suter was top notch.

Erat shining: It took some veteran smarts and moves to earn Nashville the two points, and Erat was directly in the middle of it. He scored the goal to tie it 1-1 late in the third, and made a pretty pass to Wilson from behind the net to set up the game-winner. Erat has seven points in nine games this season, and if he remains healthy, the Predators will keep looking to him at crucial times.

F Colin Wilson on Rinne: “Unbelievable. There’s a reason he got signed up for seven more years. You see how valuable he is. It’s too bad he doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves from around the league. I don’t know how you can play any better than that.”

G Pekka Rinne: “This home stand is important for us. It showed that resiliency that we’ve been known to have, going back to last year. We never seem to panic anymore. That’s a good sign. We just keep going at it.”

Barry Trotz: “Our big-time players stepped up and played tough when the game was on the line.”

G Pekka Rinne, Nashville: Made 39 of 40 saves
D Shea Weber, Nashville: 2 points, +3 rating
F Martin Erat, Nashville: 1 goal, 1 assist, +3 rating

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