The Nashville Predators returned home after a bruising road loss to the Colorado Avalanche, facing the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. The Jackets had won three of their last four, though their most recent game on Saturday was a loss to the St. Louis Blues, while the Preds had had a very up-and-down week.
The Jackets started off with an early push, and the teams traded chances for the first five minutes, at which point Filip Forsberg scored from a very sharp angle to put the Preds up 1-0. Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene did some great work recovering and keeping possession to let that goal happen, but the laser-guided shot was all Forsberg.
Forsberg almost scored again two minutes later—stopped by a post—as the Preds continued to press the attack after gaining the lead. The youth line (Philip Tomasino and Tommy Novak, playing with Nick Cousins) also had some great looks, including a Cousins shot that Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins had to make a spectacular save on.
The Preds kept piling on the pressure, which resulted in Forsberg drawing a tripping penalty halfway through the period. The power play looked hungry early, with Duchene and Ryan Johansen both crashing the net trying to convert, but the skater advantage expired without a change in score.
A minute and a commercial break later, though, Yakov Trenin collected a nice cross-ice pass from Colton Sissons and scored. Twelve seconds later, Forsberg got his second of the night. Having given up three goals in just under thirteen minutes, Merzlikins yielded the net to Jonas Korpisalo.
Korpisalo was tested early, as Tomasino pounced on a turnover and almost got it past him. Eventually, though, the Jackets got their skates back under them and Juuse Saros got the pop quiz of goaltending tests himself. The Preds recovered well, though, pushing back into the offensive zone and putting Korpisalo back to work. Eeli Tolvanen had at least his second promising miss of the night.
A goalfront flurry with seconds left in the first, as Granlund set up first Dante Fabbro and then Duchene for really promising shots, but Korpisalo managed to keep the Preds from adding to their lead as the period came to an end—mercifully for the Jackets, who’d finally get a rest instead of just clear and change; unfortunately for the Preds, who had to stop their relentless waves of attack.
Intermission did in fact give the Jackets time to regroup, and they started the second period in the Preds’ end. Still, as before, once a few minutes had passed the Preds were back on the offensive.
A Preds turnover about six minutes into the second put the spotlight and the pressure both on Juuse Saros, as he stopped but didn’t freeze three quick consecutive shots and the Jackets pounced on the first two rebounds to barrage him with shots from all directions.
With 11:22 left in the second, Alexandre Carrier got called for high-sticking after another turnover, and the Jackets’ power play got its first chance of the evening. The Jackets started off with some great chances, including one that had one of the Preds skaters diving into the net behind Saros to try to help out. It looked as if Jack Roslovic scored just as the penalty was expiring from a pretty similar angle to Forsberg’s first of the night, but John Hynes challenged the goal and it came back on an offside play.
This time, the Preds killed the penalty successfully, and Jeannot almost managed to score on the rush back up the ice as Carrier exited the box. This game has felt like it’s had a lot of almost-goals for both teams, though the xG numbers haven’t been that high for either.
Matt Benning took a puck to the mouth with six minutes to go in the second and immediately left for the dressing room.
Undaunted, the Preds continued piling on the attack, and Filip Forsberg completed his hat trick—and got the fans an assortment of food and snack options—with 4:34 left in the second. I think he might be annoyed about the “is Filip Forsberg still good” thinkpieces, and if this is his reaction I’ll certainly take it. Granlund once again did some great setup work on the goal.
Eeli Tolvanen had yet another scoring chance thwarted, but drew a hooking penalty in the process. The Jackets’ penalty kill was a lot more aggressive this time, pushing the puck out of their zone and working hard to keep it out, but Forsberg scored his fourth of the night, off a pass from—who else—Granlund, with five seconds left in the period and a little more than that left before the penalty would have expired.
As the period ended, Jackets defender Andrew Peeke also blocked a puck with the lower half of his face and also headed off for repairs.
The third period started with a scuffle in front of the benches, which developed into a fight between Tanner Jeannot and Gavin Bayreuther. There was some considerable confusion about additional penalties, as the scoreboard, the broadcast team, and the coaches all seemed a little unclear on whether it was 4v4, a Preds power play, or what; they eventually settled on “or what” and play resumed 5v5. (Yakov Trenin and Max Domi received mutual roughing minors.)
Again, the Jackets pressured early. Again, the Duchene line got some fantastic looks in when they got into the offensive zone. Cousins scored the Preds’ sixth of the night with assists from Tomasino and Novak, and another scuffle broke out as the official scoring was announced. Mark Borowiecki and Eric Robinson received roughing penalties, but Robinson—who’d objected to Borowiecki’s hit on Sean Kuraly—got called for a double minor and the Preds got another power play.
Gustav Nyquist almost scored shorthanded, but lost the puck; then Saros had to make a save on Alexandre Texier rushing back in. The power play expired without a goal for either team, and the Jackets went back on the attack. Things got more than a little messy in front of Saros with about three and a half minutes to go, with sticks swinging wildly in front of Saros’s face, but no harm done.
With exactly three minutes left, Cole Sillinger took a lazy high-sticking penalty against Nick Cousins. As the penalty was called, Korpisalo had to make a point-blank save on Tomasino; early in the power play, he had to make another on Cousins. Play returned to five a side for all of nineteen seconds before Matt Benning took a fairly blatant holding penalty.
The Preds got the early clear, then the next clear, and Juuse Saros got the shutout in the team’s well-deserved win as time ran out. The Preds played a game that was never worse than okay and was sometimes great; more of this, please.
OTF’s Three Stars of the Game:
3. Juuse Saros — although the Preds played a pretty good game in front of him, that made the moments when he was put on the spot more of a challenge, and he withstood it well.
2. Mikael Granlund — just fantastic work start to finish.
1. Filip Forsberg — who else?