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Nashville Predators 4, Buffalo Sabres 7: Some Kind of Night

That was ugly in a lot of ways. Eeli Tolvanen’s debut was spoiled by a barrage of Buffalo goals in the second period.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

What could have been a big night in Nashville turned into a big nightmare in a five-minute span in the second period.

The Sabres took full advantage of a major power play, scoring three times to hand the Preds a 5-3 loss.

Nashville (50-17-11, 111 points) could have clinched the Central Division had it won and Winnipeg lost in regulation. Buffalo (25-41-12, 62 points)

Jason Pominville put Buffalo on the board 43 seconds in, stuffing home a rebound on the first shift.

An early penalty to Kyle Okposo gave the Predators a power play opportunity and they converted as P.K. Subban’s shot got through 2:59 into the game. Subban’s 16th of the year sets a new career-high.

Austin Watson redirected a Subban slap shot to give the Preds a 2-1 lead with 3:00 left in the first.

Kyle Turris pushed Nashville further in front, snapping a shot past Chad Johnson 2:01 into the second period, getting to a wide open slot and taking a feed from Craig Smith.

Ryan O’Reilly pulled Buffalo back within a goal on the power play with 14:15 to play in the second. Kyle Okpuso tied the game just 95 seconds later after a wild sequence that saw several players down in front of the Predators’ net.

Nick Bonino backhanded a loose puck over a downed Johnson to put the Preds back in front. It took a lengthy replay after the Sabres challenged for goaltender interference.

Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin took a shot from Scott Hartnell and remained down on the ice for several minutes before being taken off on a stretcher for medical treatment.

Hartnell received a major and game misconduct for the hit. Buffalo scored in the first minute of the resulting power play, as Sam Reinhart tied the game and then gave the Sabres the lead a couple of minutes later. Okposo potted a third goal on the man advantage to push Buffalo in front by a pair of goals in the final minute of the second.

Juuse Saros started the third period in goal for the Predators.

Nashville went to the power play and ended up with a 5-on-3, but that only lasted 26 seconds before Kevin Fiala was sent off for high sticking. Nashville didn’t convert, and the Sabres ended up with a truncated advantage as a result.

Scott Wilson gave Buffalo a 7-4 lead, poking in a rebound on Saros.

With Winnipeg’s victory in Toronto, the Predators were unable to clinch anything. The Preds’ loss also assured that the Central Division could not be clinched on Sunday in Tampa, either.

Random Observations

  • As is customary, the new guy goes solo for his first warmup lap. That’s always fun. Rinne led them to the door, then politely said, “Eeli, you go first.” Or something like that, maybe in Finnish.
  • Maintenance for Forsberg. Looks like Tolvanen’s an honorary JOFA line member tonight. I refuse to call it the JELLI line, because I don’t think you’re ready for this jelli.
  • Salomaki, Irwin, Weber out. Watson in. The latter is good news for sure.
  • Nice thought of giving Eeli the first shot, Joey, but they were giving you that shot. Take it.
  • And Buffalo scores on the very next rush. Gotta settle it down now.
  • Well, that’s a good way to answer. On the power play. Wait, what?
  • Nice to recognize Phil Housley at the first media timeout, now to go about the business of handing him an L.
  • Jumbotron proposal goes off without a hitch. She said yes.
  • Rinne says “the heck with this, I’ll clear it myself.” Practicing for an empty-net attempt later?
  • Watson pretty much spun around and turned the puck into the net...I don’t know. Weird goal, but they all count the same. Might have been a butt goal?
  • Two girls literally just tried to take seats on press row behind me...they didn’t get to stay there long.
  • No Arvy to start the second period. If he’s dinged up, keep him out. No risks at this point.
  • Shoutout to game ops for blasting “Return of the Mack.” Old school.
  • What’s also old school? Getting to the slot. Turris does that and it’s 3-1.
  • Turris’ busy period continues with a hooking penalty...aaaaand the Sabres score.
  • I guess Arvy is okay after all...he’s back out there.
  • Buffalo isn’t playing like the last-place team they are, but the Preds aren’t helping themselves, either.
  • Simply an effort goal by the Bonino line.
  • Awful situation with the hit on Antipin. Really hope he’s okay.
  • That resulting power play was just horrid all the way around. Letting in one is bad enough, but three? That’s cause for more than just concern.
  • Putting Saros in to begin the third is the right move, if only to send the message that the first 40 minutes is not acceptable.
  • 1:24 of defining moment and they need to convert.
  • Never mind. Fiala with a high stick and that’s that.
  • This is getting more bizarre by the minute.
  • But, hey, you all can have Frosties tonight. So, there’s that, I guess.

The “Do We Have To?” Three Stars of the Game

  1. Bonino. He’ll get this spot for the finish on his second-period goal.
  2. Turris. That was a very nice goal, showing that good things happen when you get in high danger zones.
  3. Saros. Gave up one in relief, but let’s not pin it on him.

Postgame Reaction

Peter Laviolette on the 5-on-5 play:

“It was average at best. It was okay, and okay a lot of nights doesn’t win. We were able to have a lead, but I don’t think that we were outchancing them or outplaying them at that point 5-on-5. At the end of the day, you go to the penalty box again as much as we did, you’ll lose the game and it cost us tonight.”

Hartnell on the play that injured Antipin:

I saw (Antipin) reverse the puck and it wasn’t late, I just tried to rub him out and I think his chin hit the glass. You see a guy laying there, you feel your stomach gets turned all upside down, seeing the stretcher on (the ice) and all that kind of stuff, it made it feel worse. It’s an unfortunate play, and I hope Victor’s alright.”

Tolvanen on when he started overcoming nerves for his NHL debut:

“Probably after the first shift. The second shift was tough, too, but most of the nerves went away after the first shift.”

Watson on how they’ll prepare for tomorrow’s game in Tampa:

“I don’t know how much we’ll look at this or whether we’ll just look at Tampa, that’ll be up to the coaching staff. We’ll just do what we’ve got to do to get our minds right and get away from that hockey game and get back to playing Predators hockey.”

Tweets of the Night

Game Extras