After a much-talked-about game on Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators hosted the Detroit Red Wings for another showdown at Bridgestone Arena. It was a rematch of goalies from Tuesday—Thomas Greiss in goal for the Red Wings, and Juuse Saros, coming off of a fantastic shutout game against Detroit, for the Preds.
Eeli Tolvanen started the game off with a bang with a hard check on Dylan Larkin, sending the Red Wings center down the tunnel once he picked himself up off the ice. (Larkin did return to the ice before the end of the period.) The first sustained offensive possession belonged to the Red Wings after a few minutes of back and forth. Saros put a stop to that nonsense with a strong save, giving the Preds a chance to change lines and regroup.
The Preds scored the first goal of the game on a gorgeous two-on-one-(and a half) with a perfectly placed pass from Erik Haula to Rocco Grimaldi at 5:34.
Then the Predators benefited from the first, as Tim Peel might have said, “f****** penalty” of the game when Anthony Mantha was called at 6:58 for tripping. the Predators set up right away, and Eeli Tolvanen made short work of the man advantage by snapping his signature “Goalvanen” shot from the circle at 7:23.
Immediately after Tolvanen’s goal, Rocco Grimaldi snagged a loose puck behind the net and snagged a third quick goal for the Predators just 16 seconds after Tolvanen. A quick goalie change for the Red Wings brought in Calvin Pickard and sent Greiss to the bench.
Wanting to extend a warm (and swift) Southern welcome—and perhaps shopping for some new headwear—Grimaldi sent the puck past Pickard 29 seconds later, recording his very first hat trick in the NHL and the fastest hat trick in Nashville Predators franchise history.
The Red Wings got a chance to regroup with a man up with just 3:23 left in the frantic first period when Ben Harpur was called for interference. The Red Wings set up quickly, but the Predators limited their chances and the penalty expired. Unfortunately, Mathieu Olivier was called for a high stick, giving the Red Wings time back on the power play. They made good on the opportunity as Bobby Ryan scored at 19:05.
With less than a minute on the clock, Tolvanen made a beautiful play on the puck in front of Pickard to find the back of the net once again, but the Red Wings’ coaches challenged the goal for being offside. Despite the heartfelt plea of Bridgestone Arena and Paul McCartney for the referees to “Let It Be”, the goal was overturned. Finally, after 20 minutes that felt remarkably like exciting dog years, the first period ended with the Predators up 4-1.
Sadly, the second period did not start out with the same breakneck pace as the first period. While the Preds had some chances early, the Red Wings were able to get some offensive possession of their own.
The Preds looked like they needed the first ten minutes of the second period to recover from the first-period madness. The adrenaline was a split second ahead of the rest of their bodies for stretches of play. Captain Josi took a deep breath, threw the team on his back, skated the puck through the neutral zone, and sent a gorgeous cross-ice pass to a ready Granlund, who sent the puck off Red Wing Troy Stecher’s stick and into the net at 12:19.
The Granlund goal settled the Predators back into their game. Both teams played a semi-placid back and forth for much of the second. Unfortunately the second period zen was interrupted with less than a minute to go when Filip Forsberg was called for an impressive slash. The Red Wings weren’t able to capitalize on the man advantage before the period ended with the Predators up 5-1.
The Red Wings began the final period on the power play compliments of the Forsberg penalty but didn’t make good on the opportunity. The Predators got right back on track with their style of play. Mathieu Olivier settled the puck near the blue line and fired off a shot that whizzed past Pickard for the sixth goal of the game for Nashville at 4:29.
Again tipping the ice in Nashville’s favor, Dylan Larkin was called for tripping Alexandre Carrier at 7:52. Neither the first nor second power play units found success on the call though. The Predators got another chance on the power play with an interference call on Adam Erne at 13:31. Coach Hynes gave the power play units a shake, creating interesting lines that weren’t able to capitalize.
But who can capitalize on opportunities tonight? That’s right—Rocco Grimaldi. With under three minutes to play, Grimaldi grabbed a puck off the Red Wings and returned it down the ice past Pickard. Bridgestone Arena erupted with chants of “Rocco! Rocco!,” putting an exclamation point on the end of any scoring dry spell he was struggling with.
The Predators were called for a penalty at 17:58, but the Red Wings panicked when they saw Rocco Grimaldi streaking towards the goal on a shorty chance and committed a hooking penalty. Despite one more near make, Grimaldi ended the game with only four goals, as the Preds won 7-1.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Rocco Grimaldi — Tonight was not only Rocco’s first hat trick (plus one), but the quickest hat trick in Predators history, and he tied Eric Nystrom for a franchise-record four goals in a game. Grimaldi has struggled to score lately, and seeing him find the back of the net not once...not twice...not three times...but FOUR TIMES had to be as much a relief to Grimaldi as it was exciting for Predators fans.
- Eeli Tolvanen — It used to be that the Predators’ power play was just a nice chance for the opposing team to rest an extra player for two minutes. Tolvanen has changed all that, and teams now have to fear the man advantage. He also showed how thoroughly his game is filling out with strong, physical play.
- Roman Josi — Everything is better when the Captain is back on the ice. Two assists and a calming presence earn Josi the third star of the game.