Predators stick up for one another, can't make lead hold up

Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 10:53pm

Shea Weber sacrificed part of what should have been a five-minute power play.

It was worth it … for a time.

The Nashville Predators captain made his point when he stood up for his close friend and defense partner, Ryan Suter, and his teammates got plenty out of what remained of the advantage with two goals — one during the actual power play and another two seconds after it expired.

Ultimately, though, the Predators came away with just one point. The lead they built on during that stretch vanished in the third period and they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the New Jersey Devils before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville was 0-2 in the shootout while New Jersey was 2-2.

“We’re sticking up for each other,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… I want guys to stand up and Shea’s leading the way by example.”

It was an unusually tense and physical contest given that the teams have faced each other just 16 times overall and never with anything significant at stake.

The rough stuff started nearly nine minutes after the opening faceoff when Devils forward David Clarkson drove Suter into the boards behind the Nashville net. Weber took exception and immediately hammered Clarkson, which resulted in a minor penalty for roughing. Clarkson was assessed a five-minute major for boarding.

It was another 35 seconds after Weber left the box that the power play finally started — Sergei Kostitsyn had gone off for hooking in the interim — but it took just 27 seconds for Colin Wilson to convert and put the Predators on the board. Jerred Smithson made it 2-0 just after Clarkson finally was freed.

“That was the fortunate part,” Weber said. “If [Clarkson’s penalty] was only a minor, it would have negated a power play there, so that’s the risky part. But in this locker room, we don’t want anyone taking advantage or taking liberties on guys.”

Weber lost his temper again under similar circumstances with 14 seconds to play in the second period when he cross-checked Patrik Elias in retaliation for some contact with goalie Pekka Rinne.

That gave New Jersey a 4-on-3 advantage for 53 seconds and a 5-on-3 edge for 30 seconds. The bulk of all that power play time came at the start of the third period, and the 5-on-3 lasted just seven seconds before the Devils converted.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored that one, and Clarkson tied it with 12:03 remaining in regulation.

“I saw a guy hit our goalie and our job is to protect our goalie,” Weber said. “He’s our biggest asset so we don’t want him getting hurt.”

The contest also featured an unthinkably long fight between Nashville’s recently acquired heavyweight Brian McGrattan and New Jersey’s Cam Janssen as well as coincidental minors to Jordin Tootoo and Eric Boulton (unsportsmanlike conduct) and Blake Geoffrion and Brad Mills (roughing).

“Anytime you go up 2-0, it’s going to get a little chippy,” Wilson said. “We’re two gritty teams, so when those two things collide, it’s going to get chippy.”

Nashville finished with 21 penalty minutes, eight fewer than in its first three games combined, and probably two too many.

“All of the sudden we’re trying to kill off a 4-on-3 and a 5-on-3 to start [the third period],” Trotz said. “They got one and then you’re on your heels a little bit. From that standpoint, we didn’t manage that situation very well.

“… They kept bumping into our goalie and one of the things we always want to do is protect our goalie. It was unfortunate it was on a 4-on-4, but I didn’t think … our goalie was being protected by the appropriate people on the ice. So you have to do it by yourselves.”