It’s 6:13AM. My back is killing me. My hair seems plastered to the cushions of my couch. The NHL Network is blaring in the background, and somehow I seem to remember hearing what they were saying a few times over the past hours.
There’s a hamburger wrapper, and an empty cup that once contained a milkshake lying next to me. I stand, and almost fall over. Attached to my belt are a rally towel on one side of my hips, and a t-shirt on the other. I wobble my way to the computer room and begin to piece together the events of the preceding evening, which definitely went on until the early hours of the morning.
The light shines through the blinds and I realize my contact lenses are still in from last night. Need saline. I must not have made it into the bedroom, as only the living room light is on.
Oh yes, I remember now… and I don’t even drink… the Preds… the celebration… just after one o’clock in the morning Central time… the big series tying win against the Sharks. It was Predators forward Mike Fisher and San Jose goaltender Martin Jones, and at 1:03am, Fisher got the best of Jones.
What was left of the once sellout crowd poured out onto Broadway feeling as if they’d won a Stanley Cup. I’ll excuse them this time, because honestly, this was as good a feeling as Preds fans have ever had.
Almost six periods of hockey were played, and now the teams fly back to Northern California for a Game 5 tomorrow night. The momentum has swung from the Sharks to the Predators, and with the series now tied once again, we have a best of three to look forward to, and a chance to move into Round Three and the right to say we’ve earned a shot at the Final Four, and another “upset,” of a Pacific Division powerhouse.
Yes, the Predators are getting set to play some of the most intense hockey of their lives, and their playoff lives seemed to depend on the play they exhibited throughout Game 4 of this series.
Taking an early 1-0 lead within the first minute of the game, once again it was Colin Wilson lighting the lamp for the Predators, scoring his fourth goal of the post-season. Wilson, who, as we all know, scored just six goals in a dismal regular season this past year, has looked dominant throughout these playoffs, and once again helped the crowd lock into the frenzy that would remain a factor throughout the next five plus hours.
San Jose’s Neanderthal defenseman Brent Burns knotted the game at one just over a couple minutes later, but the Predators answer to that came at the halfway point of the period as Fisher deposited a rebound of a James Neal shot behind Jones, and the Preds took their second lead of the night.
Finnish forward Joonas Donskoi tied the game for San Jose in the second period, and a Shark power play goal by Burns gave the visitors their first lead of the game early in the third.
When James Neal tied the game with less than five minutes to go in regulation, the idea of overtime loomed large. However, the idea of triple overtime didn’t seem to be a thought in anyone’s mind. What seemed to go through the minds of the fans was the erratic officiating on the ice. When all was said and done, each team was given five chances on the power play, and of course, there were reviews and challenges, and questionable calls.
In fact, if you believed the jumbotron, the Sharks would have their third goal called back due to offsides, but the clip the fans were privy to only told half the story, and the chants of “Ref You Suck” were loud, clear, and clearly incorrect.
The biggest call, which went the Preds way, was a seeming overtime goal scored by the Sharks, but the goal was wiped out immediately by the on-ice officials, and with the help of the review board in Toronto, was officially waved off due to incidental contact with Rinne. Of course, the Sharks coaching staff was apoplectic as you could watch the clip over and over and see Shea Weber clearly crosscheck Pavelski into Rinne. I guess that was all part of the incidental contact, and no penalties were called as play ensued.
It was 1:03 on Friday morning, with some children put safely to bed, and others sat patiently as their parents chewed their fingernails to the knuckle. Mike Fisher slid the puck into the Sharks net and there’d be no reviews, no challenges, and no fans chanting about poor officiating. There’d be pandemonium as the idea that the Predators had tied the series set in.
Game 6 will be a potential series-ending contest, and it will be at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night. Of course, Game 5 will be in San Jose on Saturday night.
The Predators have tired bodies; the Sharks have equally tired bodies. However, if the Predators have a silver lining in all this, they just won a grueling, epic match for the ages, and will be the happier of the two teams on five-hour flights across the country.
I’m glad you’re reading, and I hope you’re watching. It’s getting better with each passing game.