Following a disastrous outing against the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night, the Nashville Predators headed to Massachusetts to take on a very good Boston Bruins team Saturday afternoon. The big news entering this game was who was in and who was out for both teams. Yakov Trenin returned to the line up after missing the Buffalo game due to being in COVID protocols, and Mark Borowiecki rejoined the Predators on ice after recovering from a lower body injury. Juuse Saros returned to his place in net. Unfortunately, Nashville lost defenseman Mattias Ekholm who entered COVID protocols before the game, and Filip Forsberg remained out for the same reason.
Boston didn’t enter this game at full strength with a handful of their supporting cast out with injury or in COVID protocols, but they had their big guns ready to go. Boston’s points and goals leader Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak are all playing hot right now, and the Bruins defense - tops in the league - is a formidable force. Linus Ullmark, who will continue to battle returning Tuuka Rask for the starting job in net, earned the goalie nod for today’s game. Nashville fans would recognize former Predators Craig Smith, who started on the first line today for Boston.
This game would be a huge challenge under the best of circumstances, but after a flat performance and tough loss to Buffalo, could the Nashville Predators regroup and compete against one of the strongest teams in the NHL?
Nashville came out looking better than they had against Buffalo on Thursday when the Preds looked flat from that first puck drop. Each team got a shot on net in the first few minutes. Both Ullmark and Saros held fast until former Predator Craig Smith sent the puck past Juuse Saros on a breakout with line mates Marchand and Bergeron at 3:20.
Nashville was able to respond with offensive pressure of their own, but Ullmark kept the puck out of Boston’s net on several solid chances. Unfortunately another former Predator, Erik Haula, set up defenseman Mike Reilly who backhanded the puck past Saros making the score 2-0 at 7:37.
Little defensive breakdowns set Boston up on both goals. The Predators needed to clean up those lapses before the game slipped out of hand in the first period. The Predators picked up the physicality of their game in the second half of the opening period, and the pursuit of the puck on the forecheck opened up a goal for Colton Sissons at 14:30 to close the gap to 2-1.
The goal gave Nashville some momentum, but Boston continued to pressure and righted the energy on the ice as the period wound down. With less than a minute to play in the first period, Tanner Jeannot was upended by a Taylor Hall hip check, and you could almost see Tanner Jeannot plotting his revenge as the period expired.
The second period started with a two on one chance involving Matt Duchene and Eeli Tolvanen, but a shot on goal didn’t materialize. Jeannot came out still fired up from being upended at the end of the first period and made his presence felt immediately with his well documented physical play.
The physicality spilled over resulting in a tussle between Michael McCarron and Derek Forbort. McCarron landed an uppercut before both players were banished to the sin bin at 3:43 each receiving five minutes for fighting.
Yakov Trenin found a very rare open slot on the ensuing play but missed the top corner of the net. Another Nashville chance went wide of the net but drew a crosschecking penalty against Brandon Carlo at 4:15 putting the Predators on the power play.
The Predators made the most of the two minutes against a strong penalty kill spending the opportunity in the offensive zone with several quality shots on net, but Ullmark stopped each shot with effort.
The power play didn’t yield a goal but did build momentum for the Predators, and Luke Kunin capitalized on that energy with an outside shot that beat Ullmark to tie the game at 7:32.
Boston pushed back after the tying goal with offensive pressure, but Saros made key saves halfway through the period. Nashville retuned the favor with a push of their own. Physical play and back and forth chances punctuated the second half of the second period. While there was never a lull in the action, neither team could capitalize on the chances and the game remained tied 2-2 at the end of two.
The Predators started the period with two quick shots on net, and Boston returned the pressure with some action in their offensive zone. Tanner Jeannot got his stick tangled with Derek Forbort and went to the penalty box at 2:07 giving Boston their first man advantage of the game.
Saros stopped a point blank shot on the penalty kill and smothered another loose puck in a net front scramble. Saros stopped two more high quality chances, but Brad Marchand slipped a top shelf shot past Juuse to regain the lead for Boston at 3:51.
The fourth line continued the pressure on the forecheck. This produced a turnover, and Phil Tomasino passed to Roman Josi who sent the puck past a McCarron screen and past Ullmark to tie the game back up at 6:26.
The physical play dialed up in the third period as Dante Fabbro was on the receiving end of a hard check by Brad Marchand. The Predators added some extra force on the forecheck in response. Matt Duchene was tipped up and scorpioned by Urho Vaakanainen giving Nashville a power play at 13:34.
Matt Duchene hit the crossbar on a carry in shot, but the Predators reset and set up, but the team couldn’t get off another shot to threaten Ullmark. It was a clutch penalty for Boston, and the teams retuned to 5 v 5 play with just under four minutes remaining in regulation.
Boston made a strong last push at the end of regulation, but time expired with a 3-3 tie and the teams prepared for overtime.
Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, and Roman Josi got possession in overtime off the face off and threatened early with a shot that bounced off the pipes once again by Duchene. The Predators immediately jumped on defense and barely escaped a loose puck floating around Saros. Just moments later, Taylor Hall was able to tap the winning goal past Saros as the puck leaked through the five hole at 1:41.
- This looked more like it. The Nashville team that took the ice in Boston looked much more familiar than the team who played flat against the Sabres on Thursday night. Despite going down two goals in the first, the Predators made necessary corrections and tied the game up with a better performance in the second and third periods. Minus a few early mistakes, this is the Predators team that looks like it can compete with the best teams in any division.
- These was a play off type game between two well matched teams. Both teams boast offensively successful top lines, strong defense, and highly ranked special teams. If you’ve been wondering how the Predators might look in the play offs, this was a good glimpse.
- One point is good, two points would have been better. There is a lot to feel good about with this game, but in the end good feelings don’t move a team up the standings. The Predators bounced back well and found a way to stay in the game, but it is difficult to leave that extra point on the ice.