Heading into tonight, the Vancouver Canucks were looking to snap a four-game skid threatening their place at the top of the Pacific Division, while the Nashville Predators—just six points behind them in the standings, with two fewer games played—were struggling to climb into a wild-card spot, and needed to finish their road trip on a high note.
Play started a little more in the Preds’ end than I would have liked, with the Canucks alternating between pressuring and counterattacking. Shots on goal were actually even five minutes in, and a number of other stats were also even or tilted slightly in the Preds’ favor, but maybe I just blinked during a particularly good shift.
About seven minutes in, Troy Stecher started a flurry in the Preds’ DZ with a shot that gave up a rebound that Pekka Rinne struggled to control. The Canucks got a great cycle going, which ended with J.T. Miller adding another assist to his totals as Zack MacEwan scored over Rinne’s shoulder.
The Predators responded well, and Calle Jarnkrok almost managed to even the score after an extended stay in the Canucks’ end, but Jacob Markstrom got the stop. The commercial break didn’t kill the Preds’ momentum, but very shortly after Austin Watson took a penalty and the Canucks’ PP% against the Preds this season increased to 90. Percent. As in, they have scored on nine of the ten power plays they’ve had against the Predators. It was Brandon Sutter, but I don’t think that even matters.
Just over a minute later, Jordie Benn scored his first of the year, as Rinne was screened by Sutter and Dan Hamhuis.
The Preds got a chance on the power play as Quinn Hughes was called for hooking, but the first save of the power play was actually made by Pekka Rinne. The Canucks’ penalty kill made a great, concerted effort to keep the Preds from getting much of anything done, and the period eventually came to an end, still 3-0 Canucks. At this point, I’ll take it.
With less than a minute of the second period gone, the Canucks scored off a shot that bounced off about five people and ultimately went in off of Dante Fabbro, though it was credited to Elias Pettersson. It was at this point that Juuse Saros entered the game.
Nick Bonino’s line got a great shift going in response, not even interrupted by Rocco Grimaldi slamming himself skates-first into the boards, but Markstrom kept the door closed. That was the best look the Preds had while trying to get their feet back under them before the second period got too well established.
Tyler Myers cross-checked Jarnkrok headfirst into the boards and was immediately challenged to a fight by Watson. Unsurprisingly, Watson immediately lost the fight, but since the refs declined to call the obvious instigator the Preds at least got a power play out of it. Craig Smith even managed to score on that power play, getting the Predators on the board.
Just over a minute later, Mikael Granlund slipped his coverage to capitalize on a rebound, bringing the Preds within two. Seconds after that Grimaldi almost scored a third, but instead put himself into the boards again. Some back and forth ensued, and Miller got sent to the penalty box as the Predators got another power play.
The Preds got some fantastic chances on that power play, including another by Jarnkrok off a pass from Bonino, but Markstrom managed to stop them all, including the last-minute flurry after the penalty expired. As the period wound toward an end, Markstrom got another fantastic save on Colton Sissons, who looked like he had a sure goal off a Roman Josi pass.
Unfortunately, with two minutes left in the second, the Canucks got another lucky pinball bounce to bring the score to 5-2.
Very early in the third, Colton Sissons collided with Markstrom. A considerable scuffle ensued as Markstrom, Sissons, several other players, and the net ended up all over the ice, but Sissons was ultimately the only one to the penalty box, giving the Canucks another chance on the power play. This time the goal was scored by Jake Virtanen.
With the game unofficially in garbage time with over seventeen minutes left in the third, Hynes decided to actually let his best players play, instead. The top six got the shifts as the Canucks faithful responded to Virtanen’s goal, with first Filip Forsberg and then Kyle Turris and Matt Duchene being permitted back onto the ice. A bold strategy, but unfortunately not one that would pan out.
Moments later, John Hynes opted to take a bench minor penalty, and although the Predators managed to kill that one off, they immediately took another penalty as it expired, but, astonishingly, were able to kill that one off as well. Elias Pettersson got himself sent to the penalty box as that one was expiring, putting the Predators on the power play with just under ten minutes remaining.
Markstrom once again kept the Preds from converting on some fantastic chances, Hamhuis and Virtanen were ejected with under three minutes to go in the game, and then Antoine Roussel got into a scuffle with Jarred Tinordi after first going after Yannick Weber, giving the Preds a power play for the rest of regulation. Unsurprisingly, they failed to convert, and the evening ended not with a bang but with a whimper.
- It’s a 7:00 Pacific start, so of course we’re going all-in on the pregame presentation as part of Sedin Week. What is this, Montreal?
- Oh, never mind, we’re actually starting only about ten minutes later than it would have if there hadn’t been a presentation. It’s definitely not Montreal.
- Ah yes, the ol’ “drop pass from the blue line back into the defensive zone to a teammate who isn’t expecting it” move. A classic.
- Forsberg made a great pass through the entire OZ to...Yannick Weber, who missed it. Sigh.
- Can Watson go back to being a healthy scratch now?
- You know, if this game had started at a reasonable hour it would be almost over now, but no, we have over another two entire periods to go.
- Not to be rude, but Rinne making saves on any power play tonight is refreshing. Maybe the Preds are giving up shorthanded shots on goal to help get his save percentage up?
- At least Sportsnet hates Corey Perry too.
- I don’t know why they didn’t start the second with Saros.
- Calle Jarnkrok, Canuck Killer
- I’m not going to say “comeback” yet though.
- ...no, not even after the Granlund goal.
- Goalie change does seem to have done something to the team, though. It’s a real shame Rinne got left in for that fourth goal.
- Did Hynes seriously bench most of the top six for the Pettersson goal? That is not how you win hockey games. Give them a chance to play mad too.
- Hate to say it but that Canucks “50” logo is pretty great.
- Markstrom has been fantastic, and I extra hate to say that because I wish it wasn’t true.
- Like I said: don’t call it a comeback.
- If you were wondering, I typed “This time the [Canucks power-play goal] was scored by” and just left the sentence sitting there for the next couple minutes until Virtanen finished it.
- The Predators have now killed more penalties against the Canucks this game than they have the entire rest of the season combined. Thrilling stuff.
OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game
- Nah, I’m just not feeling it tonight.