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Nashville Predators 5, Calgary Flames 3: Rinne injured, Fiala scores in roller-coaster victory

Also, the Zac Rinaldo GWG we all definitely predicted going into tonight.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

A little over a week ago, the Predators raised some banners, then faced the Calgary Flames. It went...poorly. Mike Smith saved 43 of 43 shots. Tonight was an early chance at redemption in the Scotiabank Saddledome, where the Flames, who hadn’t lost a home game yet, hosted the Preds, who hadn’t lost a road game yet. Two records entered; one record left.

Ryan Johansen got the game’s first goal on the game’s first shot, 51 seconds in. The rest of the first ten minutes featured no additional goals but a lot of lively back-and-forth action with chances for both teams, including even Miikka Salomäki.

With less than two minutes left in the period and a haphazard collection of players on the ice for the Preds, Johnny Gaudreau got the puck behind the goal line and passed up to Elias Lindholm, who scored on the Flames’ second shot. It was a great play, the kind of thing I’d like to see the Predators do more of. Rinne had no idea where the shot was going to come from.

The SOG totals for both teams stayed much lower than I’d expect for a while, especially for Calgary. This was definitely one of those periods where the SOG counter on the scorebug didn’t reflect the play well—the Flames went 16:36 between their first and second shot on goal, but they got plenty of zone time of their own. If you look at the total shots the Flames took, the period was much closer to even—the Preds took 16 shots (8 got on goal) and the Flames 14 (only 3 got on goal).

The second period started with more back-and-forth hockey and a fantastic chance by Flames winger/gadfly Matthew Tkachuk. Zac Rinaldo answered by trying to put himself into the Flames’ net, and drew a crowd. He did also get the Preds’ first SOG of the period.

Shortly after that, Kevin Fiala scored his first point of the season, setting up a great passing play by Kyle Turris which led to a very nice Craig Smith goal. They had a few additional looks as the period progressed, looking crisp and threatening in the offensive zone. This is the start of what we were all hoping to see from Fiala this season.

A missed call at the Preds’ end of the ice led to a pileup on top of Forsberg next to the Flames’ net a few moments later. Between that and the ongoing hostilities involving various Flames players and Rinaldo and Salomaki, it seemed inevitable that something was going to happen.

However, the first player to get whistled, over halfway through the game, was Viktor Arvidsson for a slash. The Flames’ very effective first unit managed to tie the game again. They’ve scored on three of their five PP opportunities against Nashville so far this season. Just moments after that, Salomäki’s ongoing scuffle with old friend/new foe James Neal led to Neal’s first trip to the Calgary penalty box as Salomäki headed down the tunnel bleeding from a high stick.

Fiala continued his great night with a goal from the right circle a few seconds into the first half of the double minor, set up by a great play by Ryan Ellis, but the Preds were unable to convert on the second of their opportunities.

The Flames pushed hard to end the period, hemming the Preds into their zone for an agonizingly long shift, but Yannick Weber managed to get the puck out by knocking the net off its moorings, and the Preds held onto the lead for the intermission.

Calle Järnkrok started the third period with a great chance, but wasn’t able to convert. and that line stayed on for a few more great chances at both ends of the ice.

The Flames then tied the game again on a brutal misplay, where Fiala lost control and skated into Rinne, trapping him against the end boards and leaving the net completely untended. Rinne appeared shaken up on the play and left the game a few minutes later, with Juuse Saros coming in in relief. Saros, who did not get to face any warmup shots, immediately stopped a great chance.

Zac Rinaldo picked an excellent time to score his first goal as a Predator, giving the Predators the lead back. A few minutes after, Ellis drew an interference penalty and the Preds went on the power play for a chance to pad the lead. Unfortunately, they had no luck. The Flames continued to press to tie it again as the third period waned, eventually causing Fiala to take a hooking penalty with just over four minutes left in the period.

Mike Smith stayed in his net until the Preds had successfully killed off the minor penalty, which left the Preds going almost directly from 4v5 to 5v6. Several Predators skaters tried for the empty net before Filip Forsberg finally backhanded one in.

Saros made several really excellent saves in relief, and the Predators held on for the win. Now we wait for news about Rinne.

Random Observations:

  • Really not sure why Pekka Rinne isn’t getting tomorrow night’s start against the Oilers.
  • Johansen scored a goal (!) less than a minute into the game (!!), which is what I like to call a good start.
  • Fiala going down the tunnel less than two minutes into the game is not as good.
  • He’s back!
  • Rinne and Mike Smith are just going to start playing shuffleboard out there, aren’t they.
  • I’m not sure there’s as much gold in the stands as the FS-TN crew says, but there are definitely a few noticeable splashes.
  • I was going to make a joke about how the Preds needed to run shooting drills on Rinne during intermission so we didn’t have a SCF Game 1 repeat, but Lindholm scored before the period ended.
  • Man oh man Roman Josi can skate.
  • Hopefully this is the start Fiala needs.
  • Hi again, James Neal. Not here to make friends, I see.
  • Johansen has a goal already and is taking multiple whacks at rebounds in the blue paint? Who is this man wearing #92 and what has he done with Ryan Johansen?
  • I’d like to see the Preds using Jarnkrok and Josi less on the penalty kill, and especially not together.
  • Ugh, Flames tie it again. Can the Preds maybe try stopping their power play next game? Please?
  • Or they could score on their own power play!
  • Nick Bonino with the skate save.
  • And this is why we don’t pick Super Duper Stars of the Game before the final buzzer.
  • Please be okay, Pekka.
  • Guess not.
  • Salomäki’s back, at least?
  • Saros!! I’d love for the skaters in front of him to help him out defensively, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. Heck, even if it would be too much trouble.
  • Fiala just does not want a star.
  • Filip Forsberg going offside because he lost the puck while juggling it gave me a laugh in these tense times.
  • What a win for goalie-of-record Saros.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game:

  1. Juuse Saros: Came in cold, got very little help, and kept the Preds in a game that could easily have unraveled. He was the anchor the team needed.
  2. Filip Forsberg: Assist, empty-netter, and breaking even in 5v5 shot share. A solid all-around night from the Prince in the South.
  3. Kyle Turris: I could have given this to Craig Smith as well, since the whole second line was so effective.

Honorable mention: Kevin Fiala. He was all set for first star before the third period, but some things just didn’t work out.

Tweets of the Night: