Three shots in the first period. Three.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
In what has become a troubling pattern for the Nashville Predators, the team again came out of the gates slowly Tuesday night, this time against the visiting San Jose Sharks.
Yes, that same San Jose team that was boat-raced one night ago in Columbus and then had to travel to Nashville for the second half of a back-to-back.
And despite the extremely low shot total in the first period, one of them should never have been counted as a shot on goal as Martin Erat’s long attempt from the right side at the 15:20 mark was heading well wide when Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi gloved it down with the Predators on a power play.
The only reason the Predators were in the game after the first was due to the fact that goaltender Pekka Rinne absolutely stood on his head in the opening frame. He was credited with 13 saves, but several of them were of the ten-bell variety; including two incredible right pad stops of what looked like sure goals off of the stick of Martin Havlat.
“We’re not even in that game if it is not for Pekka Rinne in the first,” Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said.
At the start of his postgame press conference, Trotz was asked what his message to the team was at the first intermission.
“It was pretty simple – I didn’t have a message for them,” he said gruffly.
Then Trotz paused and said what sounded like the messagiest non-message ever given to a team that has not only has had trouble scoring but even generating shots on goal for most of this season.
“I just told them I despised everything about the first period,” he continued. “That was not Predator hockey. It might have been the worst period that we’ve played in terms of those battle areas and all that. They had to fix it from within. There is no help when you play like that. There is nothing I can say. I just told them how I felt. They responded. They showed their character. They showed their leadership in the room.”
Whatever message he delivered or didn’t deliver seemed to work. In the second, the Predators came out with much more fire under their posteriors, and despite being whistled for six minor penalties in the second, they looked much better as a team, and Trotz added that the team gained momentum from those penalty kills, including 41 seconds of a 5-on-3 against the potent Sharks power play.
Colin Wilson’s overtime winner gave the Predators the 1-0 win and two valuable standings points.
Despite his team’s lack of offense, Trotz seems comfortable winning in typical Predator fashion.
“Yes we want to get more goals, but if we have to win 1-0, that’s OK,” he said. “It means the other team is not scoring. It makes it a little more difficult sometimes, but we are hard to play against in the defensive part of it.”