With Kevin Klein returning from a 6-game absence, the Nashville Predators had a chance to gain ground on the rest of the Western Conference tonight as they played the Calgary Flames in the NHL’s only contest of the evening.
Little did we know that this would become Sergei Kostitsyn’s finest night in his career. Collecting the hat trick on an empty net goal with 29.8 seconds left in the 3rd period, Kostitsyn’s 3 goals led the way for the Predators as the beat the Flames for the third time this season (and taking the season series) with a 5-3 win.
Nashville is now 3-1 without Shea Weber playing, including 3 straight wins over conference opponents, pulling within 3 points of 4th place Detroit and 1 point of 6th place St. Louis.
On Ollie Jokinen’s 1,000th game and with Jarome Iginla only 2 goals away from 500 all-time, the Calgary Flames knew they had to come out strong and exploit a Nashville defense that was having problems without a healthy Kevin Klein and a concussed Shea Weber. The Flames would do just that only 3:47 into the first period as Iginla would get his 499th goal and give Calgary a 1-0 lead early.
Nashville wouldn’t sit back, though, and after missing the last 6 games, Kevin Klein came back in full force, firing a Nick Spaling feed right past Mikka Kiprusoff to tie the game at 1 at 12:39 of the first. The Predators weren’t finished either, Sergei Kostitsyn made it 2-1 Predators after tapping a Mike Fisher threaded pass into the net at 15:06.
The second period would be all Nashville. Outshooting Calgary 15-4, the Predators put two more goals on the board: one from Matt Halischuk (his NINTH goal of the season) at 2:27 and one more from Sergei Kostitsyn at 5:59. In a period that was dominated so much by Nashville, two goals didn’t feel like it was enough to put down the Flames for good.
Calgary wasn’t finished, though, and started to make the Nashville faithful a little nervous by cutting the deficit to two with a Rene Bourque goal at 1:17 of the third period. After exchanging penalties midway through the third, it seemed as though Nashville would survive a Flames team that was trying to claw there way back in, but Calgary decided to make it a little more interesting. Brendan Morrison made it a 4-3 game with a little over 2 minutes remaining in the third period after being left all alone in front of the net and capitalizing on a T.J. Brodie feed.
Yet, Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn would finish his hat-trick, chasing down a Kevin Klein dump shot and putting it in the empty net to seal the deal and give the Predators the 5-3 win to send the 6th-straight Nashville sellout crowd home happy.
Powerplay – 0 for 2, 0%
Penalty Kill – 3 for 3, 100%
Best Play of the Game: Sergei Kostitsyn chose to shoot and not to pass, firing a puck that squeaked through Miikka Kiprusoff’s pads and made it 4-1 Predators at that point
Worst Play of the Game: You just can’t leave players wide open in front of the net. Twice tonight the Predators left a player open right in front of the net and they capitalized. Jarome Iginla with the first goal of the game and Brendan Morrison with the Flames third goal of the game
My Three Stars:
#1: – Sergei Kostitsyn – 3 g, 0 a, +1 on the night. SK’s first ever hat trick led the way for the Predators
#2: – Kevin Klein – 1g, 1a, +1 on the night. Klein’s return after 6 games was a great one, collecting two points and helping the Predators get a big win
#3: – Patric Hornqvist – 0g, 2a, +1 on the night. He’s turning in to being Mr. In-The-Right-Spot, feeding passes that led to two great goals tonight.
Stay tuned to The Predatorial Thursday morning for the gameday preview of the Stars game!
Stay frosty, friends.