After a shootout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Nashville Predators faced off against Detroit once again tonight. If you thought the pre-game would mostly focus on the “Ry Jo Slo Mo” shootout goal from the previous game, you were only partially right.
The injury report and lines for the Predators quickly produced shock and angst among the Predators faithful before the puck even hit the ice. While the absence of Dante Fabbro was anticipated, the news that Eeli Tolvanen would miss due to a lower-body injury sent shock waves through the gold and blue Twitterverse.
The Predators went with seven defenders, including the NHL debut of David Farrance as well as Tyler Lewington’s first start in Predators gold. The forward lines welcomed back Viktor Arvidsson on his birthday. The Predators were fortunate to have Luke Kunin on the ice after a Van-Gogh–looking ear injury on Tuesday took him out of that game.
Juuse Saros started in goal. Jonathan Bernier was the netminder for the Red Wings.
Just two minutes into the game, the penalty boxes received Detroit’s Marc Staal for tripping and Yakov Trenin for a nowhere-near-Sidney-Crosby-level embellishment call. The four-on-four play went back and forth, but neither team was able to capitalize on the visits to the sin bin, despite the Predators testing Bernier.
Just a few minutes later, Lewington was called for holding Valtteri Filppula, and the Red Wings got the skater advantage. Despite a nice two-on-one opportunity, the Predators limited the Red Wings to one shot and the teams returned to five a side.
The Predators best chances came within the final moments of the period on an interrupted two-on-one with Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen, followed by a beautiful pass from Luke Kunin to Mikael Granlund that was stopped by Bernier. The period ended without any goals being scored.
The chaos increased exponentially in the second period. The Red Wings’ Darren Helm scored the first goal of the game for Detroit with a shot that floated past Saros at 1:48.
Mathieu Olivier tried to answer right back for Nashville, but the referee’s whistle and a tucked puck under Bernier’s pad cancelled out any joy from the goal light.
Viktor Arvidsson (but mostly John Merrill’s leg) evened up the score at 2:28. Arvidsson received a perfect pass from Nick Cousins and had a wide open net...which he missed, but still found the back of the net off of Merrill.
Rocco Grimaldi showed his magic hasn’t all worn off as he sent a flawless pass to Eric Haula in the slot at 6:36 for the Predators’ second goal of the period.
Matt Benning took a wicked shot into the boards from Adam Erne, and Erne was immediately introduced to Olivier’s fists as Olivier took extreme and immediate exception to another defender down. Sorting out the penalties took some time, but when the dust settled the Red Wings’ Erne was given two minutes for boarding and five minutes for fighting; while Olivier was charged with two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting, and a ten-minute misconduct. This would have left the teams playing four-on-four, but Head Coach John Hynes—probably—expressed the collective Nashville opinions of the situation, and subsequently earned a bench minor penalty for two minutes.
Despite being down a man, the Predators seemed to take the ruckus at 8:50 as a rallying cry and killed the two-minute bench minor penalty. Nashville returned to full strength, continuing to make line adjustments without Olivier.
The physical play of Eric Haula and Colton Sissons along the boards paid off for Nashville at 16:09 when a quick slot shot by Nick Cousins sailed past Bernier.
With :30 remaining in the period, Detroit committed a cross check in front of the net on Luke Kunin, and put the Predators up a man. The period ended before the Predators could capitalize on the power play, and the Predators headed into the locker room up 3-1.
After twenty minutes of deep breathing, the teams returned to the ice for the final period of the game, and the Predators set up for the remainder of their power play. Unfortunately, the Preds couldn’t take advantage and the teams returned to 5v5 play.
Mikael Granlund took the puck through the neutral zone and parted the defense like the Red Sea to score the Frosty goal of the game for the Predators at 7:05.
Olivier returned to the game after his extended “time out” halfway through the third period. The Predators began playing with a firm upper hand, and Viktor Arvidsson added another goal with a shot through the five hole at 10:00.
Adding to the chaos of the game, Viktor Arvidsson was then awarded a penalty shot on a breakaway try. Approaching Bernier with Johansen-speed-squared, Arvidsson froze the goalie and scored his third career hat trick.
Continuing the Predators’ domination, Yakov Trenin lifted a backhand shot past Bernier for the Predators seventh goal of the game at 15:54.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Viktor Arvidsson — Seeing Arvy return to the ice after his frightening collision in the Chicago game was a moral victory, and his hat trick contributed to a two-points-worthy victory. Arvy has struggled to find the back of the net at times this season, but tonight was his night.
- Juuse Saros — We are nearing that point where the play of Juuse Saros could be taken for granted, but make no mistake. Saros has earned many of the much needed points the Predators have collected recently. His play in net was strong again tonight.
- The Defenders — While the team has seen defenders dropping from injuries, the next D-man up continues to hold the line and keep the Predators in the playoff hunt. Josi and Ekholm led a young group to a strong game tonight.