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Finally, some hockey! Let it be known that I do not care for the All-Star Weekend at all. Make it at the end of the season instead of after the halfway mark. Now that that's out of the way, on to the show.
The Nashville Predators were white-hot before the All-Star break, but that didn't show in the first period, as they were completely man-handled by the Wild. Dany Heatley got things going with a one-timer off a beautiful feed from Rookie All-Star Nick Johnson, who had some passing practice, considering it's the only thing he did in Ottawa (Seriously, that's bogus. Why couldn't everyone participate in the elimination shootout?). Heater got his second goal of the night on the powerplay, which has suddenly become decent of late, by batting it out of mid-air. Beautiful. The Wild set the tone with some big hits, some timely blocks, a good penalty kill against the second-best PP in the league and some all-around great energy. The Predators looked stunned and sluggish. Shea Weber was not very happy. In fact, I could swear I saw his beard catch fire a little bit. It grew back though.
The Wild started the second period with another bang, as Cal Clutterbuck put the puck in the net after walking around Kevin Klein. Shortly after though, the sleeping beast awoke from it's All-Star hibernation. The Preds started firing on all cylinders, causing the Wild to ice the puck or simply dump it out of their own zone. They were caught by surprise. Matt Halischuk was awarded his 12th goal of the season (12!) on a fortuitous deflection off Greg Zanon's skate. Shots were dead even at 18 after two periods and the momentum was mostly on Nashville's side.
However, Kyle Brodziak scored 16 seconds into the 3rd period for a commanding 4-1 lead....maybe commanding's not the right word...how about ''fragile''?
The Wild didn't think they needed to bother playing the full 60 minutes with a 4-1 lead. Nashville, being the Predators, jumped on the sleeping prey. The last 15 minutes was Nashville, Nashville, Nashville. After Brandon Yip's goal was deemed good upon further review, the Preds had wings. They were outplaying the Wild north-to-south and after the win seemed imminent, the Wild collapsed even harder than they did against San Jose a few games back. A huge Pekka Rinne save off a 2-on-1 between Clutterbuck and Cullen sparked 3 Predators goals in the final 3:30 of play, making it 5-4 for the visiting team. While it could be argued that there should have been a whistle on Patric Hornqvist's goal that made it 4-3 after Harding appeared to have frozen the puck with his glove, he needed to be stronger on his post instead of drifting away from it and putting his glove in clear view for the poking. There's not much he could have done on the tying goal, it was simply a defensive collapse and a pretty passing play finished by Mr. Carrie Underwood (Mike Fisher). Mr. Underwood would score the deathblow goal with a fluttering shot from the half wall which somehow eluded Harding with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Remember when a 3rd period Wild lead was insurmountable? Clearly the Wild don't. Mike Yeo has to be fuming after what he just witnessed. The Wild suddenly became lemmings on the ice, spinning around, looking lost, unable to clear the zone...and Harding... I don't mean to be hard on him, but that last goal should not go past an NHL-caliber goalie. He lost his focus at the most crucial of times. I dare say this was the most painful loss of the season...hell, it was one of the most painful losses I can remember.
A few facts:
Heatley has 4 goals against the Predators this season.
Heatley has 7 points in his last 3 games.
Nick Johnson is the best waiver pickup ever. (Yes, he is, don't fight it)
Via Russo on Twitter: First time the #mnwild has blown 3-goal lead for a loss since Feb. 14, 2009 (Ottawa), but that 3-0 lead was in first
The Bennett's Chop & Railhouse Stars of the Game:
- Carrie Underwood's husband (Crushed a entire fanbase's hopes)
- Dany Heatley (2G, 1A)
- Nick Johnson (2A)
Remember, when you begin and end your night at Bennett's, you're the star! Easy parking, drink and food specials and a free shuttle to and from the Xcel Energy Center. Check them out athttp://bennettschopandrailhouse.com/.
- Who steps up for the Wild tonight? Dany Heatley got things going early. Nice performance ruined by ugly meltdown
- Is the Zidlicky situation a distraction at all? Who?
- Can the Wild find a way through some of the best defense in the league? Yup, but they overlooked their offense.
- Shoot early, shoot often seems to be the only way through Rinne. Can the Wild get to him? He looked pretty weak, but bounced back beautifully, making many key saves.
- Can the kids continue to step up? Nick Johnson did very well. The others were quiet, but decent.
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