After starting their road trip with two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators traveled to Sunrise, Florida to take on the Florida Panthers, a team that has yet to lose in regulation this season. Juuse Saros got the start in goal and Calle Järnkrok returned to the lineup, as the Predators defeated Florida in overtime, 6-5.
The lack of first-period offense has been a recurring concern in talks about the team. While the Predators did not seem to get the memo, the Panthers surely did; Jonathan Huberdeau scored within the opening two minutes, and gave Florida an early lead. The Predators were given a power play opportunity later on in the first, and actually put a puck in the net: Filip Forsberg scored an absolutely nasty snipe to tie the game up, but the Panthers answered right back with a wonky, tip-in goal.
Later in the period, Forsberg and Järnkrok found themselves on a fast break; a saucy pass from Forsberg led to a perfect “welcome-back” goal for Calle Järnkrok to tie the game again. The Predators then played their best hockey of the road trip, getting another power play and generating some actual dangerous chances. While they didn’t score, seeing some real offense from this squad was a sight for sore eyes. That would do it for the first period, as the Panthers would start the second period, with the score tied at two, on the power play after a late penalty by Dante Fabbro.
END 1ST: #Preds 2, #FlaPanthers 2— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) February 5, 2021
An early miscue and a mixup by Tinordi and Tolvanen makes the 5 on 5 situation pretty bleak. 14 shot attempts, and only 7 were on goal - the 0.024 xG/shot attempt shot quality is not good at all
But that PP @OnTheForecheck @LitterBoxCats pic.twitter.com/4oBkAjVNQ3
The Predators opened the second period on the penalty kill, and the Panthers made them pay. Aaron Ekblad popped in a goal off of a great feed from Aleksander Barkov, and Florida had the lead once again.
The Predators were given an opportunity to answer back, thanks to a penalty on Keith Yandle. They were unable to convert, but a little bit later...MATT DUCHENE ARRIVED. Filip Forsberg gave him a golden opportunity on a silver platter, and the eight-million-dollar man converted to tie this game up. Now with new-found energy, the team was flying up and down the ice for about 30 seconds before the momentum came to a screeching halt: another penalty.
This talented Panthers team made Nashville pay (again) on the power play, this time from the stick of Barkov. In a totally unsurprising turn of events, the Predators committed another penalty. While that penalty was killed by Nashville, the Panthers got another chance just moments later (again). In their fourth penalty kill through two periods, the Predators were once again successful, but the momentum the team had after Duchene’s goal was extinct. The Predators couldn’t find any offensive pressure, and the Panthers took advantage; Huberdeau slung his second goal of the night past Saros. The second period would expire with Florida holding their two-goal lead.
Opening the third period for the Predators was Pekka Rinne, who replaced Saros in net. Rinne kept the Predators afloat, making a few saves and not making any mistakes. Nick Cousins thought he had a goal around the halfway mark of the period, but video review revealed that the puck did not cross the goal line.
The Predators would have to wait until there were two minutes left in the game to score again. Roman Josi fired a cannon from the blue line past Bobrovsky to bring Nashville within one. Panthers coach Joel Quenneville challenged a high stick on the play, but the challenge failed and so Nashville was given a power play with two minutes in the game. Then, in the biggest moment of the game, Matt Duchene rose to the occasion. After a flurry in front of the Panthers’ net, Duchene found the puck and buried it. With that goal, the game was on to overtime.
Neither team could find the net for the first two minutes of overtime, as the teams took turns regrouping in their own zones and then surging. Finally, at the one-minute mark of overtime, Filip Forsberg got out on a breakaway. You can guess what happened next. Preds win in overtime, 6-5.
- The Predators fall behind early again. It can’t be overstated just how much of a problem their first-period offense is; when you wait until the final twenty minutes to shoot the puck, you are going to have a bad time.
- Filip Forsberg single-handedly makes watching the Predators in the offensive zone fun.
- As a Florida native who has been to plenty of Predators-Panthers games at the BB&T Center, the fan noise they are pumping in is louder than I’ve ever heard that arena by a mile.
- What is this feeling? The power play is actually having consistent pressure? This feels great!
- Not a perfect period, but the best one we’ve seen during this road trip. The talent is there; it’s always been there.
- Forsberg has a hand in everything this offense does; it works, mainly because he is really good.
OTF’s Three Stars of the Game
- Matt Duchene—I have openly criticized Duchene for his lack of goals this year (rightfully so), but he finally showed up tonight. Two huge goals, including the one that sent the game to overtime.
- The Prince, Filip Forsberg—What can you say? He’s the most talented forward this organization has ever had, and his five points tonight won us the game.
- The Predators’ trainer—Whoever is helping Forsberg with his back pain needs to be given a raise. I can’t imagine the stress that carrying an entire offense puts on the spine.