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A single mistake costs Preds against West’s best…

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It was the goalie who should be in the NHL All-Star Game vs. the goalie who’s in the NHL All-Star Game commercials.

On Wednesday night, the guy who’s in the commercials prevailed.

The fourth place Nashville Predators visited the first place Vancouver Canucks for the final game before the All-Star break and dropped a tough one, 2-1. The Preds’ only All-Star, Shea Weber, scored their only goal in the defeat.

Pekka Rinne gave his team every chance to win turning aside 33 shots but still took the loss, dropping to 17-13-4 on the year.

His counterpart, Roberto Luongo, made 26 saves in the victory and improved to an impressive 23-8-7.

After two hard-fought yet scoreless periods, Weber put the Predators on the board first. Sergei Kostitsyn found himself in front of Luongo with an excellent scoring chance. Unfortunately, the Cancuks goaltender made the save but, after making another save off the rebound, Vancouver was scrambling. Weber wristed a shot from the slot past Luongo who was face down on the ice and Keith Ballard who was trying to play goal.

The Canucks answered with a goal of their own after a mad scramble, this time in the Predators end. A puck popped up in the air and Weber swatted it out of mid-air in an attempt to clear. Former Pred Dan Hamhuis held the puck in by one-timing a shot toward the net where Alex Burrows knocked it down and then banged it past Rinne to tie the game  midway through the final period.

The Canucks then scored the eventual game-winner when Joel Ward just needed to clear the puck. Instead, he tried to make a cute move inside his own zone, fell down giving the puck right to Daniel Sedin who passed it over to Lee Sweatt who scored his first career NHL goal in his first career NHL game.

Those kinds of plays are absolutely infuriating. It’s hockey 101 and yet a professional thinks he’s better than the basics. Even if it’s just in that one moment. Any time you’re that close to your own blueline while being pressured, you have to get the puck into the neutral zone first. Period. There’s no excuse. The Predators had played a solid game to that point and Rinne had been outstanding. One mistake like that literally cost them two points on this night.

Now maybe I just wanted this win more than others. Maybe I just wanted to beat the best team in the Western Conference to show that we should be conisdered one of the best too. Or maybe I’m sick of hearing all of the “Weber wants out of Nashville” crap that comes out of Vancouver. So maybe I’m biased. But this one stings a little bit more. It certainly stings more than the Calgary loss on Monday night.

Whatever the reason, the Predators are now going into the All-Star break with a two game slide. They’ll try to start a brand new winning streak at home (finally) against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, February 1.

Be sure to come out and welcome home the boys. Puck drops at 7:05pm.

LEFTOVER THOUGHTS:
* Weber’s goal gave him 30 points on the season. He’s the first Predators to 30 points this year.
* Ward had a chance to redeem himself with 30 seconds left but Luongo kicked his left leg out and got a toe on it. His best save of the night came at the most important time for his team.
* The Detroit Red Wings won their final game before the break which means Nashville is now six points behind them for the division lead.
* This was Hamhuis’ first time facing the team that drafted him, the Nashville Predators. He came away with an assist, a plus-1 rating and a season-high five shots on goal.
* Colin Wilson, who was perfect in the face-off dot against Calgary suffered tonight. He went 0-for-3.
* After the game, the Predators reassigned both Matt Halischuk and Chris Mueller, who had developed some serious chemistry with JP Dumont while in Nashville, to the Milwaukee Admirals.

THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1) Roberto Luongo (VAN)
2) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
3) Lee Sweatt (VAN)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // section303.com