The Nashville Predators were back in action tonight after a bruising loss to the St. Louis Blues last night. They took on the Vancouver Canucks, whose success under new head coach Bruce Boudreau has hit some recent speed bumps. David Rittich got the start for the Preds, while Juuse Saros enjoyed his first rest of 2022.
Play began slowly, with a few shots broken up by long stretches of...not that. While both teams managed to do something with their possessions, neither got anywhere particularly close to their opponent’s goal. The shot count was pretty close, but the shot on goal count favored Vancover and as near as I could tell without a stopwatch it felt like the actual possession time did too.
With 6:24 elapsed, Michael McCarron and Tyler Myers (Vancouver) dropped the gloves and both took a seat for five minutes. Less than a minute after that, Philippe Myers (Nashville) got called for hooking and the Canucks went to the power play. Rittich had to make some quick saves, and Alexandre Carrier had to block a couple of shots that were hard enough to temporarily take him off his feet. The Preds were able to get the penalty killed without incident,
With a little over nine minutes left in the period, Roman Josi capped off a nice passing sequence from the Duchene line by ringing iron. It finally began to seem as if the Preds were spending some time in the Canucks’ defensive zone—I finally got to see Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko for more than what felt like half a second at a time, anyway—but the ice was by no means tilted in the Preds’ favor, as Rittich continued to have to make some saves of his own.
Josi’s next scoring chance came after some great skating, and the Preds managed to get some OZ time in—though they still struggled to get to the front of the net on the whole—before Jeremy Davies was called for cross-checking with a little under two minutes to go in the period.
The Preds were able to kill the penalty off, and Tanner Jeannot streaked up the ice and drew a penalty of his own. Brock Boeser saw nothing to do about Jeannot’s breakaway but trip him; Jeannot got the shot off, which may be why it wasn’t a penalty shot, but it still gave the Preds a chance to spend time in the offensive zone. Matt Duchene had a phenomenal chance of his own, but Demko made a huge save. Still, before the power play expired, Philip Tomasino managed to get the puck past him, giving the Preds the lead.
That seemed to invigorate them, as they swarmed, and Yakov Trenin just missed a wide-open net that’s likely to haunt him. The Canucks got the puck and mayhem broke out around the Preds’ goal before the announcement of Tomasino’s goal could even start; Rittich made a save, got tangled up with one of the defenders, and had to keep working until the Preds finally managed a clear.
It didn’t last long—only long enough for a much-needed line change—before the Canucks were swarming again. Eventually, as the Preds tried another line change, they gave up the tying goal as Elias Pettersson scooped a rebound past Rittich. The Canucks continued to press, with one lucky crossbar helping keep the score 1-1 and tireless work from Rittich and the skaters.
When the Preds finally managed to escape their zone, several hours (minutes, if we’re being technical) later, Tomasino almost managed to score his second. It didn’t last long before the Canucks went right back on the attack, though.
With 3:25 left in the period, and the Preds still struggling, Kyle Burroughs checked Carrier hard and Jeannot challenged him to a fight. With both players in the penalty box for five minutes, play continued at 5v5, but we did at least get to see more of the Canucks’ zone. The Preds attacked strongly in the dying minutes of the period, but the Canucks’ defense and Demko held firm.
Matt Benning took an interference penalty early, with penalty-killer Jeannot still in the sin bin. The Preds killed that one off, but then Carrier was called for high-sticking on what looked a little more like a cross-check to the face (still definitely a penalty) or perhaps shoulders (not, as far as I know a penalty at all), and the Canucks converted off the faceoff, giving them a 2-1 lead.
With a little more urgency back in their game, the Preds attempted to go back on the attack. Colton Sissons mishandled a shot at the last minute, and then Duchene almost managed to bank a shot in off a Canucks player, but no joy. Instead, with 7:41 remaining, Juho Lammikko prevailed in a multi-stick scramble and put the Canucks up 3-1.
Josi drew a tripping penalty with less than six minutes remaining, and the Preds actually looked to have some energy in the 6-on-5 that preceded the whistle. The power play itself was a disappointment again, with nothing in the 5-on-4 like there had been in the 6-on-5 that preceded it. After that, the Preds went back to six skaters, with Rittich on the bench for the extra attacker.
Filip Forsberg tackled Tyler Motte stick-first in an attempt to keep him from scoring into the empty net. The officials opted not to award a goal, possibly because Motte had high-sticker Forsberg in order to gain possession and they’d missed it, but it did put the Preds back on the penalty kill regardless with under two minutes remaining.
The clock mercifully ran out, and the game ended.
OTF’s Three Stars of the Game:
3. David Rittich — You might say a .875 sv% is nothing to write home about, but Rittich was fine and certainly not the problem here.
2. Philip Tomasino — Scored the Preds’ only goal and had some good additional looks.
1. Michael McCarron — He honestly had a really good game. He led the team not just in individual 5v5 xG but in individual xG at all strengths, had several big clears, maintained one of the best 5v5 xG shares on the team, and did all this as a player nobody looks to as a skill player. He exceeded my expectations for him tonight in a huge way, and in a game this disappointing and brain-numbingly dull I celebrate that. (xG here are from naturalstattrick.com.)