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Post-Game Musings: vs. Chicago

by Doug Brumley / Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators snapped a three-game winless streak and ran the Blackhawks’ winless stretch to nine games with a 3-2 win Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators and Blackhawks traded goals late in the first period, but it felt like Nashville was taking control against a demoralized Chicago club when Nick Spaling scored at 17:21 of the second. The Hawks rallied, though, once their power trio of Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane came out buzzing in the third. The visitors built momentum and had the Predators under siege for stretches of the final stanza, ultimately capitalizing with a Marian Hossa goal at the 6:05 mark.

Ryan Ellis stepped into a loose puck above the right faceoff circle and got a fortunate deflection off the stick of Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith to beat goaltender Ray Emery and change the tide at 14:18 of the third. The goal, which stood as the game winner, was Ellis’ first since he posted the game-winner against Colorado on Jan. 10.

The Predators (33-18-6) will look to build on the win Friday, when they visit the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville will follow that match up with a trip to Dallas on Sunday before returning home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Bend But Don’t Break: After the morning skate Tuesday, Predators head coach Barry Trotz said Nashville’s special teams had to be better. While the power play came up empty on three chances, the penalty killers shut down the opposing power play for the first time in four games, going three for three. One key was the fact that Nashville won 80 percent of the faceoffs taken while shorthanded. The penalty killers turned in a particularly gritty performance in the second period with defenseman Roman Josi in the box for tripping. Predators players were diving to break up plays, block shots and clear pucks, while netminder Pekka Rinne stopped everything else that got though in that two-minute stretch.

Offense From Defense: Nashville got significant five-on-five offensive contributions from its defensemen Tuesday night—something that hadn’t occurred for several games. Blueliners Ryan Suter and Ryan Ellis both scored, and Ellis set up Nick Spaling’s deflection goal with a shot from the point. After the game, head coach Barry Trotz praised Ellis’ play against the Blackhawks—one game after Trotz scratched Ellis, saying parts of the rookie defenseman’s game were slipping. Apparently Ellis got the message. For Suter, his tally Tuesday gives him two goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

Mr. Smith Goes to the Net: Although he didn’t show up on the scoresheet, Craig Smith had a very noticeable night against the Blackhawks. The rookie registered a game-high six shots and missed the net on four other chances. Jordin Tootoo set Smith up beautifully for a couple of those opportunities, and another came off of a deflection of a Ryan Suter point shot in the final 30 seconds of the middle period. Deflecting point shots on net like that was a frequently used attack by the Preds Tuesday, keying Nick Spaling’s goal and forcing a number of other tough saves by Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.

Ryan Ellis: “My game is high-risk, high-reward. I think you’ve got to pick your places. I think that’s the biggest thing is to realize, is when to pick your place.”

Nick Spaling (on the gritty second-period effort by the penalty killers): “I think we’ve been struggling a little bit lately, giving up goals. We just wanted to try to get back on killing them off at times when we need them.”

Barry Trotz (on numerous missed scoring opportunities for the Preds): “[Mike Fisher] had a couple great chances. He had a rubber stick a couple times. They sent over rocket passes to him and he just couldn’t corral it. I thought for the most part we played (with) a little more emotion and had some better detail. We’ve still got some good teaching clips tomorrow, [where] we’ve got to tighten it up.”

D, Ryan Ellis (NSH): Game-winning goal, 1 assist, +2, 1 hit and 2 blocked shots
F, Nick Spaling (NSH): 1 goal, +1, 1 blocked shot, won 9 of 14 faceoffs (64 percent)
D, Ryan Suter (NSH): 1 goal

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