by Jas Faulkner, Nashville Correspondent
All Blue Lu wanted was perfection. Given his performance in the playoffs so far, it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation. Given Nashville’s performance in Game One of Round Two, it seemed like a sure thing. Recovering his identity as the beast between the pipes and harbouring lowered expectations about Nashville had to spell a quick case of “four and no more” and then on to the Western Conference Finals for Vancouver. Right?
Not so fast.
What Lu hadn’t counted on was the formidable opponent he would find in Pekka Rinne. He hadn’t counted on the Predators finding their feet and returning to the form that has gotten them further than they had ever been. Most important of all, he completely glossed over the person who has driven the boys to be who they are on the ice.
Blue Lu and the rest of the Canucks were convinced round two was going to be easy
…and Nashville Head Coach Barry Trotz wasn’t having it.
The Trotz who walked to the bench before Game Two was a picture of steely resolve not to let the team down or to allow them to let themselves down. As he paced to his place behind the bench, Peterson and Horachek trotted along on either side, chattering like medieval viziers at a public execution that promised to offer special mystery guests. As they planned and talked, Trotz walked on without a word. His expression said it all: “Be cool. I’ve got this.”
All night long, as the battle progressed on the ice, the drama from the benches scrolled along. What was happening on the ice was writ large by the rest of the teams on the benches, their gestures and expressions relaying the emotions as vividly as any bard of old recounting adventures of epic proportions following a rosy fingered dawn.
First Period was hard fought, scoreless and it looked more like any scores would be a result of who wore down whom. When Burrows got the puck past Rinne during Second Period and the game continued to wear on after that, it was easy to wonder if maybe The Hockey Gods were on the side of the Canucks. The Predators were outshooting the Canucks and even though Rinne had said “ei!” in ways that were by turns balletic and defiant of the laws of physics, they just couldn’t seem to nudge the score in their favor for the bulk of regulation time. At least until Third Period. With a just over a minute left, Ryan Suter managed to get past Lu with a little help from his friends, Martin “Don’t Touch The Face!” Erat and Joel “Hoppy” Ward. (By the way, that’s R-Y-A-N S-U-T-E-R, ballot holders.)
The game was tied, hope was alive and the Predators and Canucks fought on through a scoreless overtime playoff, then another that ended a quarter of the way in with a spectacular goal from Matt Halischuck who was assisted by Nick Spaling and Ryan Suter. There was much celebrating in Predsnation as the team erupted in sheer joy on the visitor’s bench. Smiles, hugs between Trotz and his minions and Joel Ward got all hoppy. See if that doesn’t make it into a few NHL ad montages in the future!
This is Jas Faulkner who is happyabout last night but celebrating carefully as I am as red as a boiled lobster and recuperating from spending Saturday afternoon photographing the fierce and formidable Nashville Women’s Rugby Club. I’ll be seeing you at the ‘Plex and the ‘Stone and online at Facebook and Twitter.