It’s been a challenging few days for the Nashville Predators with multiple players and the entire coaching staff entering COVID protocol before last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Despite the circumstances, the Nashville Predators came away with a solid 5-2 win against the Avs. Fans held their breath to see if tonight’s game would be played in Chicago, but with Karl Taylor and staff and several more players from Milwaukee stepping in, the Predators took the ice tonight against Central Division rival the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks have faced their own challenging circumstances recently, with a coaching change and a handful of players out of the line up due to COVID protocol and injuries. This is a team that invested in several big name players in the offseason but haven’t seen the overall return reflected in the standings. Could a depleted Predators roster open the door a crack for this Hawks team to steal two points? Or would the Predators find a way to extend a recent winning streak?
Juuse Saros opened the game with a signature save while Rocco Grimaldi made Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury earn his paycheck after the goalie misplayed a puck. Chicago had the first opportunity with a man advantage as Eeli Tolvanen was called for a hook at 4:48. Yakov Trenin and Cole Smith played aggressively on the penalty kill, and the two minutes expired without consequence.
The action moved back and forth with limited high danger chances, but the Predators’ prospects began looking up as Yakov Trenin drew a crosschecking call compliments of Connor Murphy at 10:32. The Predators were able to set up for the first minute in the offensive zone but didn’t score with the first unit. Tommy Novak took a shot as the second unit set up and scored his first NHL goal at 11:56.
The Blackhawks answered back quickly as they snagged loose puck behind the Preds’ goal and Kirby Dach sent it past Saros at 13:57 to tie the game.
The tempo and physicality of the game picked up as the period wound down. At 18:43 Seth Jones lifted the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, giving the Predators another chance on the power play. Nashville’s initial efforts faltered, but Roman Josi was threatening with an open lane to Fleury as the first period buzzer sounded. The captain headed to the locker room frustrated at the missed opportunity but with a tie score at the end of 20 minutes.
The Predators started the second with :43 remaining on the power play but didn’t yield any offensive threat. Almost immediately, Mattias Ekholm gifted the Blackhawks their second chance on the power play via a slashing call at 1:06. Chicago peppered the net front and kept a very tired Predators kill on the ice but were unable to convert on their chance, and the teams returned to five a side.
After a twisting and turning wrestling match in the neutral zone Rocco Grimaldi headed to the sin bin at 4:35, setting up the Blackhawks on their third power play try of the game. In keeping with the theme of the period, Patrick Kane was called for hooking at 5:14 evening the teams out at four on four.
Roman Josi got his chance to face down Fleury again, but the Chicago netminder swiped the puck out of the air and thwarted Josi’s attempt to regain a lead for the Preds. The four on four expired, leaving Nashville with a brief power play. Sissons and Josi each tried to put the puck on net, but the man advantage ended with no power-play goal.
The middle of the period saw several chances for the Predators against Fleury. Although none found the back of the net, the hard forechecking and offensive pressure caused a shift in momentum in Nashville’s favor. That momentum temporarily deflated at 16:43 as Philippe Myers was busted for hooking Patrick Kane. The two minutes expired without any damage done, and the period expired with no change in score.
The final period kicked off with a flurry of back and forth action, but even the best chances didn’t yield goals for either team. Tanner Jeannot finally interrupted that back and forth by drawing a holding penalty at 7:23, giving the Predators a valuable opportunity on the power play. While that man advantage didn’t yield results, Nashville was gifted another chance after Erik Gustafsson lofted the puck out of play and earned two minutes in the box for delay of game.
The delay of game power play looked like it was going to flounder after Roman Josi broke his stick and had to race for a replacement. Meanwhile Forsberg found Colton Sissons on the circle, and Sissons sent the puck past a diving Fleury to take the lead 2-1 at 11:33.
A faceoff win for Chicago and a breakdown for the Predators on defense and Jonathan Toews tied the score, whipping the puck past Saros at 13:55.
An unfortunately-timed tripping call on Tanner Jeannot at 17:04 gave the Blackhawks a man advantage as the final period wound down. The Hawks brought the puck into the zone repeatedly, but Nashville sent it back down the ice until the two minutes ended. The score remained tied 2-2 as regulation ended and the teams headed to overtime.
Overtime started with Forsberg, Josi, and Sissons on the ice, but the magic happened for Nashville when Tanner Jeannot took his turn. Roman Josi found a streaking Jeannot who tapped the puck past Fleury for the win and two more points.
- There are no small parts, only small actors. It’s been a long time since Predators fans have had to watch a game with the “Nashville Predators Roster” webpage pulled up, but tonight saw a mass of new faces. Kudos to those players who stepped up, played positions they aren’t necessarily used to, and forechecked veteran Blackhawks without pause. Tommy Novak has played a steady game this season, but stepped up with a power play goal; Kole Sherwood and Cole Smith forechecked like they’ve been on NHL ice frequently.
- This team dug deep tonight. At one point in the third period the broadcast panned over the Predators bench and you could see fatigue. These players were tired. This has been an exhausting few days both physically and mentally for the entire group. Despite the challenges, Nashville was able to keep digging in and pushing and were rewarded with two important points and a seventh win in a row.
- Shout out to Karl Taylor and the coaches filling in on the bench tonight. It is no small thing to step in and coach a team that you aren’t used to, and it is even more challenging to coach a roster that seems to change hour by hour. Guiding this ship cannot be an easy task, but Taylor and staff have done a remarkable job and deserve credit for the past two nights’ successes.