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Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 1: Rinne Backstops Preds to Road Victory

That was a bad game with good goaltending, or a good game with bad goaltending, depending on your rooting interest.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators got started on a new road trip after a disappointing homestand today. The result was good, but the process can still use some work.

Just over a minute into the game, former Predator Colin Wilson was left all alone in the circle—maybe because it was the regular season?—but Pekka Rinne was able to make the save. Not the start the Preds were hoping for.

Shortly after that, recent callup Colin Blackwell put the Avalanche on the power play with an unfortunate late hit on Sven Andrighetto—the call was for elbowing, but the damage was done by the players’ sticks tangling with each other and with a stanchion or some other part of the glass. The Predators’ struggling penalty kill managed to kill this one off, despite some threats by the Avs’ top unit, and counterattacked after the penalty but were quickly bounced back out of the offensive zone.

The Avalanche quickly got themselves established in the Predators’ zone again, threatening around the net from every direction. Before too long, Frédérick Gaudreau found himself taking another penalty while trying to recover the puck and the Predators were shorthanded for the second time in the first five minutes. They were able to kill that penalty off as well, but continued to struggle to reach the offensive zone or set up once they did make it there.

Eight minutes in, Avalanche defender Nikita Zadorov leveled Calle Järnkrok, who did not have the puck. Zadorov was not called either for interference or for the initial impact appearing to be with Järnkrok’s head, but he was immediately challenged to a fight by Austin Watson. Järnkrok returned to the bench instead of being pulled for testing or leaving for treament; hopefully he’s okay.

The Predators managed to get set up in the offensive zone after that but still no joy, and although they caught up on the SOG counter during that flurry it didn’t last long. Before too long, Nathan MacKinnon was getting breakaways and the Avalanche were swarming around Rinne again.

Matt Nieto snowed Rinne and set off a chain reaction among the other players on the ice, leading to a 4v4 with Mattias Ekholm, the first of the Preds skaters to get to Nieto, joining Nieto in the penalty box. As soon as the 4v4 had ended, the Avalanche decided to improve their chances of finishing the period without giving up a goal by taking a penalty; Tyson Barrie cross-checked Viktor Arvidsson off his feet and, despite the strong local opinion that Arvidsson should be called for embellishment, we got our first look of the afternoon at the Preds’ power play.

It wasn’t pretty, either to finish the first or to start the second. Right after the Predators’ power play had finally ended, Zadorov stuck his leg out and caught Filip Forsberg around knee height, sending Forsberg spinning across the ice and getting himself sent back to the penalty box. The Predators returned to the power play, where Nick Bonino got called for a hook on a stick lift (???) and Nieto was awarded a penalty shot (????), which was stopped by Rinne.

A few moments after that, Bonino faked out Semyon Varlamov to score off a nice pass from Järnkrok and the Preds somehow got the first goal of the game despite their poor play for the first 25-odd minutes.

The Avalanche responded strongly with a good shift from their top line, but right after commercial Arvidsson was the one to score a response goal, scoring the Predators’ second in the span of a couple of minutes. Arvidsson has nineteen goals this season and is on pace to score forty despite the weeks he missed with an injury.

However, after that, the Avalanche pushed back again and Calle Jarnkrok hooked someone during the swarm around the Preds’ net. The penalty kill went back to work. Partway through the Avalanche power play, another scuffle broke out in front of Rinne. The penalty kill was able to finish the job, again, although the Preds have been playing with fire today.

Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala tried to add another goal to pad the Preds’ lead, but overplayed it. Right after that, MacKinnon went zipping down the ice and Pekka Rinne once again had to make a great save. He followed it up with an even better one as the Avs’ top line wreaked some havoc in the zone, and then continued to make saves as the Predators continued to fail to go on the attack. Eventually, the inevitable happened; Alex Kerfoot broke the shutout on the Avalanche’s 24th shot on goal.

The Predators pushed their way into the offensive zone for a change in response, but weren’t able to get established. A little back-and-forth play eventually led to a third Preds goal, where P.K. Subban started the breakout and Roman Josi finished the play, with some help from Bonino’s line in between.

Arvidsson came extremely close to adding his second of the game, but unfortunately the Predators were put back on the power play to end the period instead. Even more unfortunately, Bonino was injured (by one of his own teammates) on the faceoff, and left the period for repairs, but did return to start the third.

Also returning to start the third was the Preds’ power play, at least in theory. J.T. Compher got in alone just as the teams returned to even strength, but fortunately missed the net. The Avalanche have been having a bad time with goaltending lately, but have looked great other than that, while the Predators have pretty much done the opposite (with the goaltending varying by game), which has made this game really weird to watch.

Subban made a couple of good plays to get the Avs out of the Predators’ zone, which is a refreshing philosophy at this point. Unfortunately, Watson took a penalty and the Predators’ penalty kill was once again asked to step up, and did, though Rinne has definitely been their best penalty-killer today.

Jared Bednar pulled Varlamov with a bit under four minutes to go and Ryan Ellis cleared the puck 200 feet into the empty net for the Frosty goal. For some reason, the Frosty goal was shortly followed by Matt Irwin fighting Matt Calvert. Watson and Zadorov almost had another scuffle, but were separated by the officials.

The Preds wrapped up an important road win to maintain position in the Central and gave Peter Laviolette his 600th career win at last.

Random Observations:

  • I had a schedule conflict for Saturday night’s game, so this is my first look at the Johansenless Preds, and so far I am not impressed.
  • Uh, special teams practice isn’t supposed to be during the game, guys.
  • The Nashville player being booed by the Pepsi Center is once again P.K. Subban.
  • Yeah, yeah, he went after MacKinnon last postseason, but it’s always Subban.
  • I am not a fan of Nikita Zadorov’s.
  • “Landeskog, one-on-one with Gaudreau” oh that’s a phrase to inspire confidence.
  • I have no idea how Josi didn’t get called for whatever he did on that MacKinnon breakaway.
  • The referees seem about as engaged in this game as the Preds do.
  • Oh no, a power play.
  • At least Avs Twitter is also mad about the refereeing. Ideally you want it to be fair for both teams, but unfair for both teams is the second-least-bad option.
  • Bolt the penalty box door with Zadorov in it.
  • Avs Twitter is really mad about the refereeing.
  • Chris Mason is suggesting that making a “small adjustment” hasn’t worked on the power play it might just be bad luck. I mean, that or y’all need to totally restructure it...
  • Preds Twitter is now ALSO really mad about the refereeing. You gotta be kidding me that’s a penalty shot.
  • Also: bizarre that that got called and Josi’s play on MacKinnon earlier didn’t. I’d way rather have Nieto taking the penalty shot, though.
  • Oh Craig.
  • I dunno if I’d say the Preds have played better this period, except that they’re scoring. Scoring matters, but there’s only so long you can rely on goalscoring (and goaltending) without the play to back them up.
  • May I repeat: PEKKA. RINNE.
  • I appear to have undervalued the Bonino line’s potential offensive contribution when we got the Johansenless lines. That or they just really like playing against Varlamov in particular.
  • Nice skating from [checks notes] Matt Irwin?!
  • Järnkrok just made a play while skidding across the ice on his knees. Okay.
  • Forsberg really wants a goal today. I’m here for him and Arvidsson racing the rest of the season.
  • That was a weird fight to end the game.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game:

  1. Pekka Rinne: this game would have been over in the first with different goaltending.
  2. Nick Bonino: goal, assist, took no penalties.
  3. Viktor Arvidsson: the light of our lives, and one of the Preds who spent the least time in his own end (the whole team spent more time there than not, but Arvidsson came close).

Tweets of the Day: