The Patron Saint of Tennessee visited Nashville today to receive the first dose of the vaccine she helped fund. I will also assume that while she was here, she blessed Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Predators. Remember, if the Predators don’t win, it’s ALL THEIR FAULT, not Dolly’s:
Before we get started, it must be mentioned that this game is being made up from earlier in the season when the second meeting between these teams was postponed due to the NHL’s COVID Protocols concerning the Carolina Hurricanes. Also of note:
Ryan Ellis has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury and is out 4-6 weeks; Luke Kunin has been placed on IR with a lower-body injury and is out 2-4 weeks; Ryan Johansen has been placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. https://t.co/1eLcssCKLQ— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 2, 2021
Thanks, I hate it. As a result, the following occurred:
In practice this morning, Carrier was paired with Ekholm, while Fabbro moved up to take Ryan Ellis’s spot with Roman Josi. Eeli Tolvanen remained on the top line with Mikael Granlund and Filip Forsberg. Mathieu Olivier and Tanner Jeannot practiced on Colton Sissons’s wings. Olivier and Jeannot were linemates in Milwaukee last season and I’d expect to see the team roll with this set up as they obviously knew about the injuries/protocols ahead of morning skate.
The Predators have been on a hot streak recently, winning 4 of their last 5 games. The team is currently 6th in the Central Division and 9 points behind Carolina, who is tied for second with Tamp Bay and one point behind Florida for the lead. This game, considering the quality of competition, should be interesting.
It took five and a half minutes and a chance on the power play for the Predators to get set up in the offensive zone for the first time. The power play expired with no shots on goal. It has seemed incredibly difficult for the team to get into the zone and establish any kind of offensive structure or presence. As I mentioned earlier, the Hurricanes are much stronger competition than the team has faced recently.
By the way, that chance on the power play was the result of Nino Niederreiter clipping Juuse Saros’s helmet with his own helmet on a trip behind the net. Mathieu Olivier got physical by “helping” Niederreiter onto the bench. Cedric Paquette took issue with that and put the teams at 4-on-4. It will come as no surprise that Carolina was able to strike first during that penalty as Sebastian Aho got free and sent a laser behind Saros and into the net.
With around four minutes left, Dante Fabbro took a delay of game penalty as he sent a puck sailing out of bounds. On the ensuing Hurricanes power play faceoff, Carolina won and instantly scored as Vincent Trocheck deflected a Dougie Hamilton shot behind Saros. The good news was that Fabbro’s stay in the penalty box was short-lived. The bad news, unfortunately, was that the Predators found themselves in a two-goal hole that they would carry to the locker room with them as the period ended.
The Predators were on the good side of a very late penalty call as the Hurricanes were called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Predators will start the second period with 1:39 of power play time.
Saros didn’t come out to start the second. Pekka Rinne was in net; Saros not on the bench. It was reported later on in the period that Saros would remain out for the night and would be reevaluated in the morning. The team started on the power play. The best thing it yielded was a pass from Nick Cousins to the location where Viktor Arvidsson should have been.
The team did a better job of getting established in the offensive zone as the period went on, but before long, the Hurricanes were able to utilize their speed and transition game to get back down to their side of the ice. Steven Lorentz was able to get the puck in the net behind Pekka Rinne, despite a cluster of gold jerseys clogging up the front of the net in front of him. The score was 3-0 at this point.
Toward the end of the period, the Predators began some solid offensive play and were able to maintain possession for an extended period of time. And, for the first time, shot quality seemed to improve. It was short-lived, however, as Dante Fabbro was called for hooking. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an actual hook, but it was called, nonetheless.
On the bright side, the Hurricanes did not score six seconds into the ensuing power play. It’s worth noting that they hadn’t yet scored on the power play as the period expired. However, the third period will start with about 30 seconds of power play time left for the Hurricanes.
The third period power play start proves powerless and the teams traded shifts in each other’s zones for quite some time until Brett Pesce took a penalty for Carolina and sent the Predators to the power play. The first power play unit was unsuccessful, but the second unit was able to find twine as Calle Järnkrok tapped in a puck from a Nick Cousins rebound. The resulting score: 3-1. It wasn’t long before Mattias Ekholm sent an absolute rocket toward the net to have it redirected by what was initially though to be Nick Cousins but later was discovered to be a defending Hurricane, putting the Predators within 1 with a score of 3-2.
As the seconds waned, the Predators pulled Pekka Rinne and Roman Josi committed an obvious foul that forced the team to spend the rest of the game on the penalty kill. With the net empty once again, Sebastian Aho took his first chance to find the back of the empty net and put the game out of reach with a score of 4-2. Time expired and the Predators dropped the game to the Hurricanes.
Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star - Pekka Rinne - Came into the game in relief of Saros, who was the victim of helmet to helmet contact with Nino Niederreiter.
2nd Star - Calle Järnkrok - A power play goal went a long way to getting the team back in the game.
1st Star - Mattias Ekholm - He played with the heart of a Swedish lion and was two-thirds of the way to a Gordie Howe hat trick.