The Nashville Predators looked to build off a statement win against a division rival as they started their West Coast road trip tonight. The Vegas Golden Knights are once again off to a great season and have been a rough matchup for the Preds in the past; it would be a good test of the Preds’ skill and resilience.
Injuries and unavailability meant the Knights gave goalie Logan Thompson his first NHL start tonight, while the Predators’ roster remained the same as Saturday’s game.
An early turnover meant Saros had to stay sharp as he faced a 2-on-0, and the Knights continued to press the attack after that. Yakov Trenin and Mark Borowiecki responded with chances of their own. With about nine minutes elapsed, Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg combined for a fantastic play that got saved by Thompson just as Roman Josi drew a tripping penalty.
The Knights’ penalty kill looked crisp and aggressive, belying its recent struggles; it then took a turn into the other kind of aggressive, as Vegas forward Brett Howden dragged a Preds skater down and cross-checked him a few times. These teams do not like each other much.
The penalty expired without a change in score, but the Preds continued to press. The top line had a sustained shift that forced Thompson to make some excellent saves before the exhausted Knights were finally able to clear.
As the period wound down, Tanner Jeannot and Keegan Kolesar had a disagreement about a hit of Jeannot’s that led to both of them getting called for fighting. The Preds managed to keep up the pressure, generating plenty of good chances, as the teams headed to intermission, but the score remained at zero.
The Golden Knights came out physically to begin the second period. After some back and forth hockey for a little over two minutes, Forsberg received a drop pass from Mikael Granlund and sniped the puck far side over Logan Thompson's blocker. When he gets room to shoot, the result is never good for the opposing team.
The Knights came back from the goal with a flurry of chances. There were enough odd-man rushes for an entire period, let alone a three-minute segment of one. However, the Predators were able to hold them off and come back with a few chances of their own. Jeannot took the puck into the zone with no help and managed to get a backhand shot off, and then it was Philippe Myers firing a slapshot for Yakov Trenin to tip into the net for a 2-0 lead. That’s Myers’ first point as a Predator since being traded from the Philadelphia Flyers.
The two teams went scoreless for the rest of the second period, and the Predators head to the third period with a crucial lead over a strong team. If we know anything about the Golden Knights, it’s going to be a dogfight to the very end, and the Predators need to expect the best out of Peter DeBoer’s team.
Alex Pietrangelo got a rebound puck in the slot on his stick early in the final frame, and the puck could have gone in the net if it wasn’t for a valiant effort by one of two Carrier’s playing in the game, Alexandre.
And here we go again. It’s Forsberg doing his thing and owning one of the best defensemen in the NHL. This time, it was Alex Pietrangelo who fell victim to his antics. Down the left wing, a flip of the puck up and around, and a turned-around defenseman later, and the puck is in behind Logan Thompson off of Forsberg’s backhand to make the score 3-0.
The Preds then took a delay of game penalty, which Ekholm and many others didn’t believe was a penalty in the first place. Then, Jonathan Marchessault took an interference minor on Jeannot, who has had a whale of a game. Finally, after that chaos, Josi took a minor high-sticking penalty. DeBoer pulled the goalie on the first power play, but Granlund missed the shot, and everything went back to normal. The whistles were going wild in a very small period of time.
Vegas decided to take the game into their own hands, and they got an extremely ugly goal because of it. William Karlsson had the puck bounce off of him and into the net behind him and Saros to make the score 3-1. It felt like one of those plays that you watch happen without being able to do anything about it. It’s super unfortunate for Saros, as he has played well the entire game too.
The Knights made another strong push, and at the end of it came a Saros save with a Duchene and William Carrier disagreement that resulted in a huge scrum. Michael McCarron and Kolesar were jawing back and forth during the commercial break. The amount of animosity between these two teams is certainly impressive, and it has made for an extremely entertaining matchup. Jeannot, who already fought Kolesar in the first period, slammed Shea Theodore into the boards, skated by the Knights’ bench, and jawed with them. It looked as if he was challenging anybody to come out and fight him. This guy is so fun if you haven’t noticed already.
The Knights emptied their net and created massive amounts of chaos, and after Saros made a great glove stop, the Knights scored right off the draw to make the game 3-2. Theodore blasted a one-time feed from Pietrangelo, and immediately things got even more interesting.
The good thing is the Predators came out with a victory! The Knights had a few chances towards the end of the period after a bad icing, but in the end, Saros makes 42 saves and gets the W in the books. It was an extremely impressive win to kick off the road trip, and it’s one of those identity wins that John Hynes and others have talked about over the course of the season. Giving up over 20 shots in the third period definitely isn’t something you want to make a regular thing. Still, the Predators did a good job of fending off the pushes from a very talented team missing top-tier talent.
The Predators are back in action against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
That’s all from us, everyone! Go Preds!