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Post-Game Musings: at Colorado

Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 11:49 PM / Features
By Jim Diamond  - NashvillePredators.com
Getting off to a fast start is always a priority, but so far this season one has not come with much regularity. Entering Tuesday night’s game, the Predators had been outscored by a 42-29 margin in the first period. Nick Spaling, Ryan Ellis, and Martin Erat all found the back of the Colorado net in the first period Tuesday night, giving the Predators a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes. It was just the 11th time this season that Nashville had a lead at the first intermission, but the Preds have made the most of those opportunities picking up 18 points in those 11 games (8-1-2).

Facing an uphill battle, ironic since the game was played in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado threw everything they had at the Predators for the final 40 minutes of the game. The Avs fired 27 shots at Rinne over the final two periods and got one back late in the second period. But that was it as the Preds capped the game with a late third period goal to head back to Nashville with a 4-1 victory and two points in the standings over a team that will likely challenge for one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots available this spring.

Tuesday marked the first meeting of the season between Nashville and Colorado, but the two teams do not have to wait long to renew each other’s acquaintance, since they go at it again Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena in the second half of a home-and-home set.


THREE MUSINGS
Ellis Again: Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis has the first point-scoring streak of his NHL career. After posting a goal and an assist in Saturday night’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, Ellis struck again in the first period of Tuesday night’s game in Colorado. With the Predators already leading 1-0, Ellis and fellow rookie blueliner Roman Josi were tapped to man the points when T.J. Galiardi of the Avs was sent to the penalty box for tripping at 7:18. Just 23 seconds later, Josi sent the puck to Martin Erat at the right faceoff dot. Erat found Ellis atop the right circle, and Ellis stepped into a one-timer that sailed by Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Although it will not reflect in his point totals, Patric Hornqvist was in front of Varlamov providing a textbook screen for Ellis. Hornqvist was also on the ice Saturday night when Ellis scored his first career goal, and being the thoughtful teammate that he is, Hornqvist was the one who made sure to grab the puck for Ellis. Late in the third Tuesday, Ellis kept the puck in at the right point before flipping a pass to Hornqvist in the slot. From there, Hornqvist beat Varlamov with a wrist shot. Ellis’ goal and assist gave him four points (two goals, two assists) in his last two games.

Energy Line: Prior to Saturday night’s game, Barry Trotz thought that his offensive lines had grown a little stale, so that fact, combined with the return of Colin Wilson after missing three games with an upper-body injury, was the perfect time to shake up his line combinations. He toyed with the personnel on three of the four lines, but he chose to leave the Gabriel Bourque-Nick Spaling-Jordin Tootoo triumvirate in tact. And the head coach had good reason to do so. The line has been contributing points in the offensive zone while making the lives of Nashville’s opponents miserable with solid forechecking and a general “in your face” type of game that leaves foes no room to create anything of their own. Bourque, Spaling, and Tootoo made their presence felt early Tuesday. Just past the four and a half minute mark of the opening period, Bourque and Tootoo crashed-and-banged below the Colorado goal line. Tootoo eventually emerged with the puck and put a tough-angle shot on Varlamov. The puck came to Spaling on the left side, where he buried the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.

Bent but did not Break: After taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, the Predators were on their heels for a majority of the middle frame. With the Predators on the long change, combined with the fact that the game was being played at altitude in the Mile High City, the legs and lungs were burning a little as the Avs kept coming in waves with their offensive attack. And it was not just the Colorado forwards who were looking to score, as they routinely sent a defenseman in on the rush with their forwards. That high-risk tactic created multiple scoring opportunities for the Avalanche. Colorado outshot Nashville 18-6 in the period, but it took the Avalanche until 19:24 of the second before they finally solved goaltender Pekka Rinne. With Francis Bouillon in the penalty box for a hooking infraction, Ryan O’Reilly was able to tip home Peter Stastny’s shot from the right side. O’Reilly is the younger brother of former Predator Cal O’Reilly. Four minutes before O’Reilly’s tally, Rinne denied Stastny’s wrist shot from the high slot. As he so often does, Rinne was able to glove down the slick shot from Stastny, and the big Finn made it look a whole lot easier than it really was as well.


THREE QUOTES
D Ryan Ellis (On adjusting to the NHL): “It has been a great run so far. The guys have been really easy on me. I think that I have been given a good chance here. I am just trying to play my best, make simple plays, and help the team to win.”

F Nick Spaling (On fast start): “We had a good start to the game. At least our first period we came with a lot of energy. I think the whole team was sticking to the game plan, getting it in, and getting pucks to the net. We were able to generate some chances.”

F Nick Spaling (On facing Colorado again Thursday): “We have to play a full 60 minutes. We just have to come out with the same energy as we did tonight and carry that right through the game. Obviously we can’t have a second like we did tonight. They gained a lot of momentum there. It is a quick rebound and we have to turn around and get ready to go.”


THREE STARS
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville: 32 Saves
F Martin Erat, Nashville: One goal, one assist, and a sneaky five faceoff wins in eight draws taken
D Ryan Ellis, Nashville: One goal, one assist, and a +2 rating


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