The day before "winter vacation", err the Olympic Break, both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins came out a little slow. Maybe, like a college student, most had the beaches on the mind, but a day game throws all the tried and true routines out the window, which is enough to throw any professional player out of his normal rhythm. Add in two out of conference opponents playing their only game of the season and it's enough to make the first period look like a middle school dance in terms of both teams feeling each other out.
Sidney Crosby did open the scoring in the first on the power play after some nice puck movement after he, Sergei Gonchar, Evgeni Malkin moved the puck around. The puck got to Crosby and he buried it by goalie Dan Ellis. Besides that, not too much else happened.
Tempers were finally raised at the end of the first period when Malkin and Dan Hamhuis got penalties when both teams skirmished after the closing whistle. Malkin would take an extra penalty and Martin Erat would convert from about the same mid-range that Crosby did to tie the game at 1.
Soon after, Jordan Staal made a power move past defenseman Kevin Klein and took the puck to the net. Matt Cooke showed up on the doorstep right in time to give the Penguins the lead on Cooke's 12th of the season. Tat lead would be very short lived, as Nashville took the ensuing face off right into the zone and Jordan Tootoo (who wears number Two-two) drilled a bad angle shot perfectly past Marc-Andre Fleury to make the game Two-to-Two. Poetic, that one.
Brooks Orpik scored his annual goal in the third period, taking a pass from Kris Letang after Crosby won the offensive zone draw cleanly. The Pens would go on that period to kill off a big 5-on-3 penalty -- kudos to Craig Adams for blocking a big shot-- but the Preds would even the score off an unreal blast by Canadian Olympian Shea Weber on a truly unstoppable shot.
The game would go to the shootout, the Pens earned a power play on the effort of Staal, but they couldn't convert. Pittsburgh out-shot Nashville 7-0 in the extra stanza, but Ellis was up for it.
Pittsburgh has feasted in the gimmick, going 7-0 and Crosby had scored on six of seven shots and Fleury had made 14 of 15 stops. But it wasn't to be this time. Letang and Crosby failed and Fleury let the first two to end the game on a bit of a sour note for the home team.
- Crosby blocked 3 shots in the game, one of which hit him in the lower leg. Sid appeared to not get injured, but it definitely seemed to bother him throughout the game. Perhaps a bruise, perhaps just a usual in-game "ouchie". With the Olympics in Canada, and Crosby kind of being the face of hockey and especially Canadian hockey, don't expect much to come of it. Crosby didn't miss a shift and still played well, even if he seemed bothered. Usual hockey stuff.
- Jordan Staal led all players with 5 shots on goal, he was driving to the net with authority and on top of his game. Solid, solid effort.
- The Pens did well in the faceoff circle; winning 58% of the draws on the game, led again by Crosby winning 61% of his 21 attempts.
- Pittsburgh also out-shot Nashville (33-26) and out-attempted them 59-52. Dan Ellis stood tall and the Preds' defense did well here to limit chances to the outside, when possible.
- Shea Weber's goal was a thing of beauty, his all-around play reminds me of why I'll be glad to see Olympic play to watch some of these rarely seen Western conference game play a little more.
Well you can't win every shootout and Pittsburgh got caught on the wrong side of the coin-flip today. They lost a chance to tie New Jersey in the standings before the break.
So now it's a vacation for all but five of the Penguins. A little much deserved rest and relaxation. But stick around here at Pensburgh, we've got a lot of new material for you, including; Olympic coverage, prospect updates, new arena looks and the debate inspiring dilemma of who to pick up at the trade deadline, and just how it's going to be possible.