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Predators fall 4-1 in Pittsburgh

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Paul Kariya and Mark Recchi
Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins
Paul Kariya (left) lines up against Penguins forward Mark Recchi, who finished Tuesday's game with a goal and two assists.

Mark Recchi had a goal and two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a 1-0 Predators lead to defeat Nashville 4-1 Tuesday night at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh's heralded young forwards, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, posted two points each and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 of Nashville's 26 shots. Scott Nichol scored for Nashville.

With the loss, Nashville's record falls to 37-15-3. The Predators now close out the week with two home games--Toronto on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday.

Goaltender Chris Mason got the start for Nashville and was vital to keeping Nashville in the game during the first period, when Pittsburgh outshot the visitors 10-5. With just over 13 minutes gone in the game, Mason made back-to-back stops on Dominic Moore then denied Ronald Petrovicky on a follow-up chance. Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky was sent to the penalty box for hooking on the play, and less than a minute later Mason responded with another trio of saves on Erik Christensen, Michel Ouellet, and Ryan Malone.

Nashville killed off three power plays in the first 15:20 of play then opened the scoring at 17:53 on Nichol's goal. Predators forward Scott Hartnell was in the right corner of Pittsburgh's zone when he drive the puck up the boards to blueliner Sheldon Brookbank at the right point. Brookbank, playing in his first NHL game after being recalled from Milwaukee on Monday, launched a shot toward Fleury. Nichol set up shop on Fleury's doorstep and got a piece of Brookbank's shot to send it high into the left side of the net. Nashville took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

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The second period started with Mason making a stop on Malkin after the Predators turned the puck over in their own slot. A minute later, Darcy Hordichuk steamrolled Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine behind the Pittsburgh net. That prompted Maxime Talbot--who fought Hordichuk in the last meetings between these teams on Jan. 15, 2006--to engage Hordichuk. The latter anticipated the aggression and got a good hold on Talbot, preventing the center from throwing any punches. Hordichuk landed a few body shots before officials stepped in to break up the scrap.

The clubs traded chances in the next minute, with Nashville's J.P. Dumont hitting the post after a Pittsburgh turnover and Petrovicky hitting Mason then the post with a scoring bid at the other end of the rink. The Penguins managed to tie it at 1-1 at 5:46, when Crosby led a 3-on-3 rush into Nashville's end and dished left to Jordan Staal for a shot that deflected off Brookbank's stick and over the far shoulder of Mason. 

Zidlicky returned to the penalty box with his third hooking infraction of the game at 6:19 and Pittsburgh capitalized on the ensuing power play to take the lead. Crosby won a draw just outside of the Nashville blue line and carried the puck into the Predators' zone. His shot was blocked by defenseman Greg Zanon but the puck caromed to Recchi on the left side. The veteran winger delivered a pass across the crease to Malkin, who was streaking in on the right side for a one timer that didn't miss. That made it 2-1 in Pittsburgh's favor with 8:05 gone in the middle frame.

Paul Kariya and Mark Recchi
Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky (right) tries to track down rookie Jordan Staal, who scored Pittsburgh's first goal Tuesday.

Mason prevented his team's deficit from growing to 3-1 when he made a fantastic stop on a point-blank chance by Jordan Staal. Immediately afterward Mason was in position to make a pad save on Staal's rebound chance and about a minute later Mason snagged a bullet from the left side out of the air with his catching glove. Nashville received its second power play after the midpoint of the game but couldn't convert on it, but the latter half of the second period ended with quite a bit of electricity. The line of Hordichuk, Jerred Smithson and Vern Fiddler wreaked havoc on an energizing shift, then the Predators were buzzing in the final five minutes thanks to sloppy play by the Penguins in their own end. In one stretch, Steve Sullivan had back-to-back chances, Hartnell was turned aside on a good opportunity and Jason Arnott stunned Fleury with a blast from high in the zone. The 22-year-old netminder would not crack, though, and Pittsburgh took the 2-1 lead into the third period.

Recchi made the hole deeper for Nashville when he finished off a solo rush from his own blueline with a seeing-eye shot from the right face-off dot in the Predators' zone. Nashville had two more power-play opportunities down the stretch but could not light the lamp again. Fleury looked particularly strong during Nashville's third manpower advantage of the game. With Crosby in the box for hooking, Fleury made a deft save on a deflection by Dumont in front and followed that with a nice play to deny rookie winger Alexander Radulov on a laser from the right circle.

With two minutes remaining in regulation, as Nashville's fourth and final power play of the game neared its conclusion, the Predators pulled Mason in favor of an extra attacker. The risk backfired when winger Jarkko Ruutu deposited the puck into the empty Nashville net from center ice with 1:24 left in the game.

NOTES: Steve Sullivan's point streak was snapped at 10 games, which tied the Predators franchise record held by Sullivan... Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who was recalled from Milwaukee to fill-in for the injured Shea Weber (sore jaw), notched an assist in his first NHL game. Brookbank finished with two hits and an even plus/minus rating in 10:18 of ice time... Scott Nichol's goal was his seventh of the season. It was his first point in five games... Scott Hartnell, who was credited with the second assist on Nichol's goal, now has helpers in three straight matches... Nashville's penalty killers allowed the first goal against in six games. The shorthanded units had gone a perfect 16-for-16 entering Tuesday's game. They killed of 6-of-7 power plays Tuesday... The Predators have been held to under two goals just eight times out of 53 games this season. Seven of those eight games have been on the road. The last time Nashville managed only one goal was Dec. 29, 2006 in Dallas. The Predators have a habit of bouncing back from these low-output games, scoring a combined 28 goals in the games following the eight zero- or one-goal contests... Scottie Upshall, Shea Weber and Josef Vasicek were scratched from Nashville's lineup.


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