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Nashville Predators 2, Vegas Golden Knights 1: Saros Fantastic, Johansen Scores in Return; Losing Bites


NHL: Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators entered their last game before the long break—the All-Star Weekend followed by the bye week—coming off of a lucky 4-1 win in Denver on Monday. The Golden Knights, who had lost their most recent game, got at least the first five shots on goal, continuing an unfortunate trend for the Preds.

The Knights’ identity is based on speed, but for yet another consecutive game the Predators were camped out and scrambling in their own end while the opponent skated circles around them. About halfway through the first, it caught up with the Preds. A massive defensive breakdown gave the Knights a 1-0 lead while shots on goal were already 10-1 in their favor. Not great.

The Predators had a good shift in response, but no joy. Marc-Andre Fleury, a much better goalie of late than Semyon Varlamov, made the saves he was called on to make. The Preds limped through the rest of the first before the JOFA line put together the Preds’ second good shift of the night and Filip Forsberg drew a penalty.

The Golden Knights had several great chances right off the faceoff on their penalty kill, with Juuse Saros having to make several excellent saves, before the Predators finally struggled into the offensive zone. Forsberg had a good look once they did get set up, but—again—no joy. The Preds did actually finish the period strong, but went into the second with a lot of work still to do.

Less than a minute into the second, Ryan Johansen got the Preds on the board, picking up a rebound after Roman Josi crashed the net. A few minutes after that, the Golden Knights had a defensive breakdown of their own and Nick Bonino gave the Preds a lead. Austin Watson made a pass from behind the net to set up Bonino’s goal, which is something I’d love to see the Preds do more of—keep the goalie off balance, don’t let them predict exactly where the shot is going to come from.

Unfortunately, right after that, P.K. Subban took a penalty and the Predators had to go on the penalty kill. They were able to kill it off, with both teams getting chances, thanks to several spectacular saves from Saros.

As the second period continued, for the most part the Predators played a lot better than they had in the first, defending their lead pretty well and playing strongly across the ice. There were a few nervewracking sequences, but overall it wasn’t bad.

With a little over five minutes left in the first period, Jon Merrill skated straight into Saros to put the Knights back on the penalty kill and the Predators got another chance to test out the power play. Longtime Preds nemesis Paul Stastny had a fantastic shorthanded chance with seconds left in the power play, but Saros managed to make that save, as well as the 2-on-0 just a moment after that.

With just a few seconds left in the period, a scuffle in front of the Predators’ net resulted in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare biting Subban. Subban was penalized for roughing and additionally had Ryan Reaves attempt to fight him during the interval before play resumed. On the power play the Golden Knights were given for, again, one of their players biting an opponent hard enough to draw blood, Alex Tuch high-sticked Josi across the face with no call. I know it’s late, but you’d like to see the referees remaining conscious.

The Predators were able to kill off the penalty to Subban, but almost right after that Ryan Ellis was called for slashing and they had to go shorthanded again. They were able to kill this one as well, but had lost a lot of their cohesion by the time they returned to 5v5 play. Juuse Saros had to make some very strong saves and was kept very busy as the period went on.

The teams had just returned from commercial break when Rocco Grimaldi was called for holding and the Knights got another chance on the power play. The Preds’ penalty kill held on until Stastny committed a penalty, though Pacioretty was somehow the player called for it, and cut his team’s power play short. Before the Predators even got their own power play, Mattias Ekholm sent the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game. The Predators finally made it back to 5v5.

Craig Smith eventually located the offensive zone (it was on the other side of the other blue line the whole time!) but might have been fouled on a breakaway; there was no call. Viktor Arvidsson then had a goal saved by Nate Schmidt, playing goalie behind Fleury. It was a fantastic play by Arvidsson.

Gallant pulled Fleury, perhaps confident in Schmidt’s abilities to fill in as needed, and the Knights swarmed the Preds’ zone again. Colton Sissons came close to scoring an empty-netter but was prevented by a defensive play from Colin Miller. The Predators were able to hold on for the 2-1 win.

Random Observations:

  • Nice to hear NBCSN talking about three sunbelt teams (plus the Jets) as probable Western Conference Finalists.
  • Way less nice to need to listen to the commentators to even know what the shots on goal are like.
  • So uh, probably cover Max Pacioretty, my dudes.
  • Josi is doing all of the offense early on.
  • Nobody is doing any of the defense. Except the Golden Knights, I guess.
  • 10 pushups for Bobby
  • SAROS. Big save with a minute left in the period.
  • Welcome back, Joey
  • I have no idea where this version of Nick Bonino has come from. 2014?
  • I have no idea where these Preds have been, either.
  • Oh, they went away again.
  • Merrill is not making himself any friends among Preds fans.
  • 20 pushups for Bobby
  • I literally don’t even know what to say about the biting incident.
  • In fairness to the refs, they’ve missed a couple calls against Nashville too, but yikes.
  • Can the team please come out for the third period now?
  • 30 pushups for Bobby The Preds never even got that power play.
  • Yes, I’ve been typing out the pushups before the power plays actually end. I’m daring the Preds to prove me wrong, but I’m gonna stop that if this is how they’re gonna do it.
  • Nate Schmidt is good at hockey.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game:

  1. Juuse Saros: Just fantastic.
  2. Ryan Johansen: He had a goal and was part of the only line to not get completely destroyed in shot share, expected goal share, or anything else like that.
  3. Filip Forsberg: He should have had a goal. He was even better than Johansen, he just didn’t get rewarded for it.

Honorable mention: Nick Bonino, who’s been having a great 2019.

Tweets of the Night: