A t 6:55 of the second period on Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne played a live puck in the forbidden area behind his net at Bridgestone Arena, earning a two minute delay of game penalty.
Since goaltenders do not serve minor penalties, Gabriel Bourque was named the “designated sitter” and the Predators proceeded onto their penalty kill.
On the ensuing face-off, Predators defenseman Hal Gill attempted to clear the puck out of the Nashville defensive zone, but instead sent it hurtling over the sideboard on the other side of the ice. Just six seconds after Bourque sat down in the penalty box, Gill joined him with his own delay of game penalty.
For the next 1:54, Nashville would be trying to kill a 5-on-3 penalty against one of the NHL’s top ten power play teams.
With one of hockey’s most difficult tasks lying in front of them, Nashville sent out center Paul Gaustad and defensemen Kevin Klein and Scott Hannan to defend the two-man disadvantage.
Gaustad stayed out for over a minute, winning a face-off and blocking a Ryan Getzlaf shot before finally making it to the bench in time for Nick Spaling come out to help kill the rest of the penalty.
Hannan and Klein, however, spent nearly the entire two minutes on the ice.
“I think it was just one of those things where they were pretty stagnant,” Klein said. “We weren’t really using that must energy. They were just going back and forth a little bit, but any time you can kill off a five-on-three for a full two minutes, that’s huge. (Pekka) did a great job. (Paul Gaustad) was huge – he made a couple of big blocks up top. Hannan and I were working pretty decently down low trying to take away their low options that they like.”
While Klein and Hannan may have had the opportunity to come out for new legs, they were confident in their game and opted to stay out to let the rest of the team get a break.
“We had an opportunity to change,” Klein said. “We got it down the ice a few times, but at the same time, we were fresh and we are counted on a lot of times for the penalty kill. If we can be counted on, we’ll take it.”
Hannan and Klein defended the zone well to the point that the only shot on goal during the entire 5-on-3 was from Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne.
“It’s our job,” Klein said. “You take pride in everything you do and you work hard. When you can kill it off against a skilled set of forwards and defense that they had out there, it’s a nice feeling.”
The penalty kill served as almost an immediate boost to Nashville, as merely 30 seconds later, Shea Weber beat Viktor Fasth for his first marker of the season to put the Predators up 2-1.
“It was huge,” Weber said. “One guy who is supposed to be one of our best penalty killers was gone to the box to make it five-on-three but we’ve got guys who are very capable in here and did a great job sacrificing.”
“Sometimes it’s a little bit of a momentum shift,” Klein said. “Coming right off of it, Shea goes down, gets a great shot and scores.”
In the end, Nashville lost in the game 3-2 in the shootout. However, the play of Klein and Hannan on the penalty kill and the ensuing goal by Weber may have been the “defining moment” that earned the Predators a crucial point in the standings.
Photo: Sarah Fuqua