After yet another overtime/shootout nail-biter game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, the Nashville Predators hit the ice again tonight at Bridgestone Arena to face off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Preds lost on Saturday night to the Lightning despite playing a strong game against a team tied for first place in the Central Division. The Predators entered this game looking self-assured after taking down the Stars and receiving a vote of confidence from GM David Poile at the trade deadline. With Curtis McElhinney in net for the Lightning (instead of the force field that is Andrei Vasilevskiy), hope for a major win was bubbling up in Bridgestone.
The tempo started out with high energy for both teams. Each team got warmed up with a few shots on goal before a shot from Mattias Ekholm made the crowd (and my voice) rise up. Despite what looked like a sure thing, the puck somehow didn’t make it in net. But disappointment was not long lasting.
The Predators contained the Lightning defensively and kept the offensive pressure on. A recently red-hot Colton Sissons scored the first goal of the game for the Predators with assists from Rem Pitlick and Roman Josi at 6:38. The assist was Rem Pitlick’s first (but not last, I assure you) NHL point.
Nice and warmed up, Rocco Grimaldi snagged the puck in the neutral zone, and Roman Josi lifted the puck past McElhinney at 8:31 for a 2-0 lead midway through the first period.
McElhinney’s struggle continued when he was called for tripping Yakov Trenin at 10:07. The Preds had a beautiful chance right as the power play started, but a net front pass sailed just wide. Juuse Saros made his own goalie statement during the power play with a point-blank stop on Victor Hedman on a shorthanded breakaway.
The Lightning dug in and clearly wanted to change the momentum of the period, but the Preds were not interested in giving up the upper hand yet. At 13:50 Ryan Johansen and Victor Arvidsson found themselves on a two on one, and Arvy made good with a goal off of Joey’s picture-perfect saucer pass to make the score 3-0. Ben Harpur recorded an assist as well.
With less than a minute to go, the Lightning finally got some sustained pressure offensively and with :22 left in the first Ryan Ellis was called for cross-checking and gave the Lightning a power play. They couldn’t capitalize with the skater advantage before the period ended with Nashville up by three goals.
The Predators returned to the ice a man down as Ellis continued his “sit and think about what you’ve done” time in the box. Unfortunately, Brayden Point made sure to give Ellis something to think about by scoring on the power play just :41 seconds into the period.
The Lightning tried to build off the energy of their goal and the adjustments they made during the intermission by keeping offensive pressure on Saros and the Predators. Despite being on their heels, the Predators kept their composure under the Lightning’s assault.
That composure paid off for the Predators at 8:09 when Rocco Grimaldi cleaned up a rebound and scored a fourth goal for Nashville (assists for Johansen and Arvidsson).
Roman Josi skated the puck through the neutral zone looking for some offensive fun but was interrupted just past the blue line by Pat Maroon’s hooking at 10:13, putting the Predators on their second power play of the night.
The Predators struggled to set up on the power play until the last quarter of the advantage, and neither of Rocco Grimaldi’s shots from the circle posed much threat. The power play is missing Eeli Tolvanen for certain.
Right out of the power play, Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak was called for roughing, Nashville’s Erik Haula was sent to the sin bin for slashing, and the teams played some four-on-four. While both “Erik with a ‘k’”s cooled their heels, most of the hockey was played in the Lightning’s offensive zone. No harm, two fouls, and play returned to five-on-five.
With 3:34 left in the period Ondrej Palat was sent to the box for interefence (and by “interference” I mean “shoving Nick Cousins into Saros and the net”), and the Predators got a chance to redeem their previously poor power play showings of the game. Unfortunately, the Preds still couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage. Have I mentioned how much more fun these power plays are with Tolvanen on the ice?
Despite an offensive flurry with less than a minute to go in the period, the Predators headed into the intermission without adding to their 4-1 lead.
The Predators started the third period with solid offensive pressure and strong defensive plays to stymie the Lightning’s few chances in their offensive zone. Neither team was willing to give up an offensive chance. The most interesting event of the first eight minutes of play before the TV timeout was when Juuse Saros was stripped of both his blocker and stick due to Matt Benning cutting close to the net.
At 9:59, Roman Josi proved he can play handsome hockey with the most gorgeous stretch pass to a streaking Victor Arvidsson for the fifth goal of the game.
The Lightning were clearly feeling frustrated, not only by the five goals but also a major hit by Tanner Jeannot along the boards. They responded with an angry goal by Yanni Gourde through the five-hole at 11:28 to make the game 5-2.
The Predators struggled with a few turnovers and bobbles in the neutral zone, but Saros continued his strong stand in goal and repelled any black disk headed his way. Once the puck cleared, Yakov Trenin took a shot and Tanner Jeannot buried a mishandled rebound for his first career NHL goal at 14:34.
At 15:04 Jeremy Davies was called for a hooking penalty, and the Predators once again faced an intimidating Lightning power play. The Predators handled the two minutes in a calm, collected manner and returned to five a side.
The Preds kept Victor Arvidsson on the ice for long shifts trying to get him another hat trick, but it was Mikhail Granlund who scored a seventh goal on McElhinney off of a gorgeous pass from Rem Pitlick at 18:34.
The Predators crushed a top team in the league 7-2.
Three Stars of the Game:
- The Veterans — Josi, Arvidsson, Granlund, Johansen... pretty much all of them.
- The Young Guns — Jeannot with his first NHL career goal, Pitlick with two assists, Trenin with an assist.
- Juuse Saros — I’m not even sure what else to say about the play of Saros since his return from injury. He is unflinching, and it is fun to watch.
Post Game Mood Music
Ryan Johansen is right—this Preds team is vibin’...and Predators fans are enjoying these good vibrations!