Matt Duchene joined Ryan Ellis and Juuse Saros on the list of key Nashville Predators contributors on the injured list after Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers. Today’s rematch would be a chance for revenge, but with the team already struggling, how much revenge could they really expect to get?
The Predators got out to a stronger start than they did on Thursday, but by five minutes into the game the Panthers were beginning to push back. However, Filip Forsberg managed to escape getting called for a cross-check along the bench and to get the retaliation play called against Panthers rookie Grigori Denisenko. Having drawn the penalty, Forsberg set up Eeli Tolvanen just off the faceoff on the power play, and Tolvanen scored.
It was a good turn of events for the Predators. They went back on the attack and had several more excellent chances as the period continued, though they failed to convert, and around the halfway mark the ice tilted the other way. With a little under seven minutes to go, Alexandre Carrier took a penalty in front of his own net and the Predators were shorthanded. They were able to kill the penalty, but the Panthers spent the next several minutes pushing relentlessly up the ice.
The Predators got what appeared to be a lucky break toward the end of the period when Aleksander Barkov missed the puck and allowed the Predators to make it toward the Panthers’ end of the ice, but all that did was allow Aaron Ekblad to score on the counterattack with thirteen seconds left in the period. The teams went to intermission with the score tied.
Just after the second period started, a Preds turnover in front of Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky led to Jonathan Huberdeau going one-on-one against Rinne; he scored. Just after the puck entered the net, a racing Alexandre Carrier put himself and Huberdeau into Pekka Rinne, who fortunately seemed unharmed.
Shortly after that, Ryan Johansen took a tripping penalty of his own. Erik Haula tried very hard to score a shorthanded goal, but did not succeed; however, the Predators were still able to kill off the penalty. The next penalty was taken by the Panthers, as the Predators got a chance to tie the game and instead spent much of their time with the advantage chasing the Panthers around their own defensive zone. The Preds did make it back up-ice, but just after the penalty had expired Noel Acciari scored to extend the Panthers’ lead to 3-1.
The Preds’ strong start to the game had pretty much entirely fizzled out by this point; when Rinne gave up a massive rebound while well out of the net, and Acciari scored again with just over a minute remaining in the second, it felt like the game was already over. The Panthers had scored four goals in just under twenty minutes.
With Juuse Saros injured, Connor Ingram unavailable, and Kasimir Kaskisuo’s sole NHL experience a loss in which he allowed six goals, the intermission experience was frustrating. Pekka Rinne had not been having a good game, and certainly needs rest, but the question of whether to go to the fourth-string goalie is always a loaded one.
In the end, Hynes opted to leave Rinne in net, and Viktor Arvidsson scored, again off a Forsberg setup—this time a rebound—to narrow the Panthers’ lead to two again. However, Sergei Bobrovsky went down hard after coming into contact with Filip Forsberg, and the Panthers went back on the power play. The Preds were able to kill off the penalty, as well as stop the first shot after it ended, but the Panthers’s defense continued to prevent them from getting much together.
Tolvanen got a breakaway, but Bobrovsky made the save. The puck went right back down the ice and Frank Vatrano scored to put the Panthers up 5-2. After that, Nick Cousins and Radko Gudas fought, with Cousins receiving an extra penalty for cross-checking. The Predators were able to kill the penalty, but Acciari scored his third of the game shortly afterward. He had two failed attempts in the couple of seconds before he got the goal, if you wondered how the Predators’ defense was doing.
The clock ran out, and the Predators completed another loss.
OTF’s Three Stars of the Game:
- Filip Forsberg—most of the good things that happened were thanks to Forsberg.
- Eeli Tolvanen—continues strong play, even after the lines were shuffled.
- You—if you watched the whole thing.
- The roster is decimated, but the team wasn’t playing well before that. I’ll have more on that early next week, but the short version is that the injuries are unfortunate but not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
- The biggest concern is goaltending. Neither Saros nor Ingram can go in to relieve Rinne, and Hynes clearly doesn’t trust Kaskisuo to do so, which means that the 38-year-old face of the franchise is going to have a bad, bad month with no rest or reprieve. That’s going to be bad for the whole team’s morale—by all accounts Rinne is fairly universally liked. I think trading for a goalie would be a stupid move at this point, but I don’t see a good solution without that.
- Does David Poile really not know whether or not this is a playoff team? Really?