It was nearly a historic night at the Sommet Center in Nashville on Tuesday night. ‘Hawk defenseman Brian Campbell’s four assists was two away from tying the franchise record set by Pat Stapleton in 1969. In addition, the Predators shattered the record held by the immortal ’93 San Jose Sharks by going offsides 642 times. Along with the win, Nashville will now hold a special piece of hockey lore.
Campbell’s first assist came on a one-timer from the blue line. Dustin Byfuglien got a piece of it and re-directed the puck past Pekka Rinne. The second came after an overaggressive Predator defense left Dave Bolland wide open down low. Campbell spotted him and got the puck to him. Bolland cut to the net, Havlat crashed, and squeezed the loose puck past Rinne. Almost five minutes later, Campbell picked up his third assist when Steve Sullivan blew Matt Walker’s proverbial doors off and put a back hand to the net that Cristobal Huet stopped. Campbell set up a picnic blanket for Jason Arnott in front of the net who roofed the rebound over Huet. Two minutes into the third period, his fourth assist came when Campbell personally escorted David Legwand to the net on a Martin Erat cross-ice dump in. Legwand graciously took the puck and fluttered it past Huet.
There will be plenty of blame to go around following the third period debacle. From Q using his timeout about five minutes too early, to Campbell lazily going back on a dump-in, to the ‘Hawks being too worried about what penalty the refs were going to call on them next, to more special teams’ struggles (the power play was 0 for 2 and fairly ugly while the penalty kill gave up two goals in six chances) or Huet’s ineffectiveness, the bottom line is, it was a total team effort. Everyone deserves a piece of the action, so let’s make sure to spread around the wealth here.
It’s never a good thing when Q uses the coaching advice of Ed Olczyk (he of the 31-64-8-10 career coaching line) and that’s precisely what happened when Quenneville used his timeout a minute and fifty-five seconds into the third period. While it has become customary practice for Quenneville to use his timeout after a ‘Hawks icing, it’s usually pretty deep into the period, not two minutes in. Surely, it would’ve been more prudent to hang on to the timeout, gamble on the fact that legs were still fresh because of the recent intermission, and save it in case Nashville stormed back into the game (which actually happened!). Or even, save the timeout in case the ‘Hawks took penalties and try to defuse the frustration in a tie game (which also actually happened!!). Either of those would have been far better times to use it than when he did.
This is by far the toughest loss the ‘Hawks have faced this season. Giving up a 4 spot in the third against the offensive Juggernaut that is the Nashville Predators will be a tough pill to swallow. The Predators had not scored five goals in a game since January 28th. Even worse, the ‘Hawks breathed life into a divisional opponent on the respirator. This is without taking into consideration the effect this outcome will have on the ‘Hawks. With two days off before Pittsburgh, they’ll have nothing to do but reflect on this game. It will be imperative for them to squash this two game slide quickly. Vroom, vroom, party starter.