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Nashville Predators 6, Chicago 1: Ringing in the new by beating the old (rival)

Ain’t nothin’ better than starting the new year with an old-fashioned whoopin’

Chicago Blackhawks v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

The Predators faced off against Chicago in a Saturday matinee, with first place in the Central Division on the line, so without further ado:

First Period

The Predators didn’t take long to get the scoring started - a breakout started by a pass from Mattias Ekholm to Matt Duchene, who made the clean zone entry, then dished the pass to Filip Forsberg as defenders crashed in on him, and the Swede scored in the top corner after retrieving a new stick. The Predators led 1-0 after just 62 seconds.

The Predators continued their good defensive start, notching a few blocks that kept Chicago from getting shots on net. The return of Roman Josi and Phillipe Myers shut the down Chicago effectively in the early minutes. Saros would eventually get tested early, but a save and a quick whistle stopped the action just three minutes in.

After another attempt against Saros, Nashville slowed down the pace a bit on the breakdown, but managed to get a good offensive zone entry and shot on net. On the next possession Luke Kunin would get a good attempt, but he held the puck a little long and had his attempt blocked. The Predators would get their first power play with just under 5 minutes, with a slash on former Pred Seth Jones on Phil Tomasino- however, McCarron would get an unsportsmanslike conduct penalty to change the opportunity to 4 on 4.

An intercepted stretch pass from Chicago led to a great attempt from Filip Forsberg, but the Predators collected the offensive rebound, and Ryan Johansen would get Delia in the splits and biting on the fake backhand and scored to put the Predators on top 2-0 with 14 minutes remaining. Forsberg and Ekholm would collect the assists, both getting their second point of the game. Just a note, Patrick Kane had a horrid defensive effort, and folks, you love to see it.

A couple minutes later, an intercepted Predators pass in their own defensive zone would lead to another Chicago chance, but Saros collected the puck easily. After the media timeout, another shot on net by Chicago resulted from a turnover by the Predators. Filip Forsberg would get another opportunity after skating through the neutral zone, but aside from a big hit by Mark Borowiecki, Nashville wouldn’t get an attempt on net. Roman Josi would commit a turnover and the hold on Kubelik’s shots, and Chicago headed to the power play.

Chicago started the power play hot with passes from Kane and Seth Jones, hitting Alex DeBrincat all alone on the cross-ice pass, but Saros would make the stop. Soon after Toews would get another shot off, but it was blocked by Juuse, but Chicago kept up the relentless attack. Saros would continue to stand tall, enduring three more shots before making the save on Patrick Kane and stopping the game, allowing the second PK unit to get on the ice. With just 13 seconds left, Saros tracked the puck to his pads, and his great positioning would prevent the rebound, and the penalty would be killed.

After the kill, the captain came out of the box, but continued to endure a Chicago offensive possession. Nashville would be relentless and physical, keeping Chicago from getting any opportunities against Saros, and would lead to a good chance by the Forsberg line that was saved by Delia heading into the second television timeout.

The Predators would start with an offensive zone faceoff, and a low to high pass to Mikael Granlund resulted in a high-danger chance that was blocked by Delia. Unfortunately, Myers would commit another penalty, and the Predators would head to their second penalty kill after the third penalty of the period.

Chicago continued their special teams assault with a couple of quick shots on Saros, but the young Finn would stand tall, at least to start. Tanner Jeannot would harass Patrick Kane and force a clear by Colton Sissons, sending out the teams’ second units with 40 seconds left. Yakov Trenin would aggressively forecheck and get a shot on net shorthanded, but Chicago would get another attempt on Saros with just 15 seconds left. Hoping to hold out just a little bit longer, the Predators would allow one more shot as the penalty was killed, and eventually would clear the zone.

At this point, the Predators would trail in shots 12 to 3, and struggled to maintain possession. Saros would make yet another glove save with 3:36 remaining in the period and the teams headed to the bench for the media timeout.

Chicago got another shot off after the break, but Nashville would finally get a short offensive possession where they struggled to maintain control of the puck, and the puck would head back into the Nashville zone. However, Chicago’s Dylan Strome would get called for tripping, and Nashville would get a chance for the power play with 2:33 remaining.

Nashville would lose the first OZ faceoff, and was forced to break out from their own zone. Some nice passes unfortunately wouldn’t result in a shot, and the second unit would head out onto the ice halfway into the power play. Tomasino appeared to break through with the puck, but was pushed to the wall. Eeli Tolvanen would get a great shot from the left circle, resulting in multiple shots in goal, then Tomasino would fight for the puck and kick it out to Mattias Ekholm, who would score and pick up his third point of the afternoon.

The puck would go back and forth, and the clock would expire on the first period, with a 3-0 Nashville lead.

Second Period

Not to be outdone by the fast start in the first period, the Herd Line would start with a relentless assault, capped off by a great goal by Tanner Jeannot, who picked up his ninth goal of the season to make it 4-0 just 40 seconds into the second period. With the top two goaltenders on the COVID list, Chicago would switch from Delia to Henrik Borgstrom, who gave up the goal on his first shot against.

Chicago’s offense would continue controlling the puck after the score, but Nashville would be aggressive on the puck, keeping Chicago from getting a shot. Another shot on Juuse Saros would be whistled dead as Hagel would get called for the high-stick, and Nashville would again head to the power play.

The Predators would win the faceoff, and Filip Forsberg got a shot off on Borgstrom, but the rebound would be cleared from the zone. Shortly after, a holding call on Kirby Dach would give Nashville a 5 on 3 with 1:29 left on the original penalty. A faceoff win got kicked back to Josi, and after some passes, Nashville would get a few more shots on net, testing Borgstrom, before play was stopped as the net came off.

With 48 seconds left on the first high sticking call, Nashville would keep its first unit out on the two man advantage. After losing the faceoff, Nashville would get back into the offensive zone, and Josi would unleash a blast from the blue line that was saved by Borgstrom. Chicago would clear the zone shortly after, but Nashville quickly moved back into the zone as the first penalty expired.

The Predators maintained possession with 20 seconds left in the second penalty, and they would capitalize after Josi would take another shot from the blue line that knuckled down and under Borgstrom’s glove, and Nashville took a 5-0 lead with 14:30 left.

The Predators seemingly woke up after a somewhat slow first period with regard to puck possession, and got another sustained possession in the Chicago zone. Chicago would keep Nashville from getting another chance, but Nashville quickly regained possession.

Chicago would regain the puck, but would get yet another shot blocked by the Predators. Forsberg continued his outstanding night in transition by getting a pass off from his knees, then taking it in the OZ and getting a shot on goal.

The puck would go back and forth after that, including a shot on net by Kane where Saros lost his stick, but the Predators would clear the puck and allow Juuse to retrieve his equipment.

The teams would go back and forth, highlighted by Eeli Tolvanen delivering a massive hit in the neutral zone. A turnover from Myers resulted in a long possession from Chicago, but the Nashville defense would keep that team up north from scoring, after Saros made a couple of good saves. Nashville finally got the puck back after a bad pass from Chicago, and Nashville would get the line change, and prevent the Chicago zone entry before heading into the media timeout with 5:24 left in the period.

After the break, Chicago, led by Seth Jones, would get another good shot off, but not without being harassed by the Predators’ defenders. After some more action up and down the ice, Nashville would finally give up their first goal of the game, as Phillip Kurashev would find the back of the net on a deflection after a series of extended possessions by Chicago, taking the score to 5 to 1 with just 2:35 remaining in the period.

After the goal, Nashville would attempt to pick up the intensity after a couple of lazy defensive series. After the faceoff, Matt Duchene would attempt to restart the offensive pressure, with a wrist shot that was saved by Borgstrom. The Herd Line would pick up the offensive onslaught, with a great attempt by Yakov Trenin that was also saved. Chicago would regain possession with a minute remaining in the period, but Nashville would be aggressive to the puck and a high-low pass resulted in a saved shot from Calvin de Haan. Nashville would win the ensuing faceoff and get the puck in the offensive zone as time drained away on the second period. Chicago would clear the zone again, and that ended the second period from Bridgestone Arena.

Third Period

The broadcast featured Mattias Ekholm on returning to play, highlighting his first career 3 assist game. On the ice, Nashville would get the puck and an early shot, but Chicago would take it back down the ice and get a shot on Saros of their own. And as is tradition, Nashville scored for the third time in the first minute of the period, where a blue-line shot from Benning went straight to a waiting Tanner Jeannot, who would get the deflection and his second goal of the game, pushing the young star-in-the-making to his tenth of the season. Predators regain their five goal lead, 6-1 with 19 minutes left. (Author’s note: it was this goal where my girlfriend heard the goal horn and said “oh geez, they scored again??”)

After the goal, Patrick Kane and Chicago would attack the Nashville net, but the defense turned them away and Nashville regained possession. The puck would bounce back and forth between both zones, with no real chances as the first three minutes of the third period would expire, and shortly thereafter, McCarron would pick up his second penalty of the game and Nashville headed to the penalty kill.

Immediately, Chicago attacked the net, and Saros somehow made the save from his back after what should have been interference from Toews. Just Juuse doing Juuse things. The first unit stayed on the ice with possession before Carrier was finally able to clear the puck halfway through the penalty. The second unit would give up possession, as Yakov Trenin would get yet another shorthanded shot attempt, this one going wide of the net.

(Author’s note: Willy informed Mace that he got ‘rick-rolled’ by the Arena PA, and the former Preds goaltender had no idea what he was talking about. Then Willy explained the meme, and a surreal 30 seconds came to an end).

Chicago would get several other chances before the net got knocked off the net, and the chippy team with the 5 goal deficit tried to bait Ekholm into a fight, but the Swede would not engage, as play stopped with just one second left in the penalty kill.

The puck would get cleared and the penalty was officially killed. Nashville would finally get an offensive possession, and a stretch pass to Eeli Tolvanen just missed the target. The teams would continue going back and forth, with Nashville being content to allow low-quality shots from Chicago. McCarron would power to the net, and a rebound to Josi ended with yet another save from long-distance, and the Predators went into the media timeout with 12:33 remaining.

Nashville would be aggressive on the forecheck, keeping Chicago in their own net before Saros made a routine save on Alex DeBrincat, and the Forsberg line would return the favor with a chance of their own on the other side. After the Herd Line got into the game, an icing would stop play.

Nashville’s defense continued to dominate play, picking up yet another block, and the bottom line would get some opportunities in the offensive zone. Filip Forsberg would get a great opportunity from the left circle, but Borgstrom would make the same, but Nashville continued their possession after the media timeout with 8:00 remaining.

Chicago would regain possession after some errant passes, but Nashville quickly got back into the zone, led by Filip Forsberg. After a quick possession stalled, Chicago would get a couple of shots in, but Saros saved both, bringing the action to a stop with just 6:36 remaining.

Chicago would continue their offensive zone possession, but they continued their streak of being off-target, not being able to connect on a cross-ice pass, and Saros made yet another save with 5:33 left.

Let’s take a quick sidebar to remember someone we all loved very much.

70th Primetime Emmy Awards - Season 70
RIP Betty White
Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

After the action picked back up, Nashville moved into “protect the lead” mode, trying to shut down Chicago for the final 5 minutes. McCarron would get a nice opportunity with four minutes, but the shot was blocked into the stands. Chicago would get another shot and great high-danger opportunity, but Saros turned it aside, not before Nashville would pick up yet another penalty, this time a hooking call from Myers, his second of the game.

On the kill, Jeannot would turn away the first zone entry, forcing Chicago to regroup in their own end. Kane and Debrincat would both get chances, but Saros continued his magic, and the Preds would clear the puck with a minute remaining in the penalty kill. The second unit continued their strong penalty killing, with Kunin clearing the puck with 35 seconds remaining. Nashville killed the penalty (or at least stopped play with a second left), moving the penalty kill to a perfect 5 for 5.

The kill ended with 1:25 remaining and Nashville continued to fight, bringing the game to a close with a sustained offensive possession. After a brief stoppage with 10.4 seconds left, Nashville collected win number 20 on the season, winning the Central Division matchup 6 to 1, moving the Predators to first in the division.

Final Stats Summary

Bryan’s Three Stars of the Game

Third star: Mattias Ekholm - a great time for his first career 3 assist game

Second star: Juuse Saros - the goaltender went 37/38, and was perfect on the penalty kill.

First star: Tanner Jeannot - this kid is just so fun to watch, leading rookies in goals and blocks since Oct. 30th.