The Nashville Predators faced the Colorado Avalanche in the second of a two-game road trip. This is the second time the Preds have faced Colorado this season, having previously lost 3-5 in Colorado last month.
While the Avalanche is currently only four points ahead of the Predators in the overall standings—sitting in the second wildcard slot—facing the defending Stanley Cup Champions is never an easy task, especially for a team looking to turn around a five-game skid. However, the return of Jeremy Lauzon to the blueline, and a depleted Avalanche roster missing the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, provided some hope that things may be turning in the Preds’ favor.
The Predators began the game with more energy than they’ve seemed to have lately and had an early advantage in zone time. But the first shot of the game for the Avs was a prime scoring chance as the Preds’ defense allowed Valeri Nichushkin to penetrate and shoot right in front of Juuse Saros, who stood tall. This was followed quickly by a couple more opportunities for the Avs. Fortunately, Saros continued to read the plays well and kept the puck out of his net.
By halfway through the first, the Predators were getting outshot 6:3, but a high quality opportunity early meant that they were still leading in expected goals (xGF%) according to Natural Stat Trick.
With just under 8 minutes left in the period, Ryan Johansen got loose in the slot, but hit the crossbar instead of the back of the net.
Two minutes later, a Jordan Gross hooking penalty put the Avalanche on their first power play of the night. Coming into tonight’s game, the Avalanche was boasting a 27.6 PP%, good for 5th in the league, while the Predators’ penalty kill has been a bit up and down. However, the Avs power play has been significantly less potent since the injury to MacKinnon.
The Avs used the power play to their advantage, holding the Preds’ defenders in the zone for 1:14, until a fortunate deflection of the puck over the glass allowed the Preds to get on fresh defenders. In the end, the Preds’ penalty kill held on, allowing only two unblocked shots on Saros.
With two minutes left in the period, Dante Fabbro came down the wall to put a shot towards the net. However, even a tip from Johansen just in front of Georgiev wasn’t enough to get the puck through the Avalanche netminder.
With 15 seconds left in the period, Cole Smith drew a slashing penalty from Mikko Rantanen, but the Preds were unable to get any shots on goal before the horn sounded.
Overall, it was a pretty good period for the Predators 5 on 5.
But the full 2-minute power play for the Avalanche gave them an advantage in special teams and overall.
The Predators began the period with 1:46 remaining on the penalty to Rantanen and a clean sheet of ice. The Predators’ power play has been abysmal, ranking 31st in the league this season and having failed to score on 18 consecutive opportunities. Matt Duchene’s intermission interview indicated the team understood the urgency of the situation around special teams. However, the urgency didn’t seem to translate onto the ice, and the Preds only managed one shot on goal. The best opportunity of the power play went to the Avs’ Artturi Lehkonen, who took the puck from the Preds behind their own net and attempted a wraparound.
At 15:08, a leaping Roman Josi drew a tripping penalty and the Predators went on the power play for the second time. A number of interesting bounces led to a prime opportunity for Nino Neiderreiter, but he could not get it by Georgiev. The Preds looked better on this power play than they have of late, with more movement and greater opportunities, but in the end they again had nothing to show for it.
At 12;08, Yakov Trenin gave the Avs their second power play with a holding penalty on Alex Newhook. The Avs moved the puck well and got two quick shots on Saros, Rantanen then hit the post before he finally cashed in on a beautiful shot for the first goal of the game. 0-1 Avs.
After that first goal, things really turned in the Avs’ favor. But Saros was able to hold the puck to allow his teammates a stoppage and change of skaters.
At 6:34 a horrible turnover by Mark Jankowski right in front of Saros allowed Ben Meyers and Logan O’Connor a prime opportunity, which thankfully Saros was again able to save.
Ryan Johansen gave the Avs their third power play of the night and they got a prime opportunity off the face off that got slightly behind Saros before he got his glove on it. This time, the Predators turned the table a bit and Trenin got two short-handed shots on the Avs net.
Even as the Predators killed the penalty, the Avs continued to hold the zone, keeping the defenders on the ice for more than two minutes before the Preds were finally able to clear the zone and change.
With under 30 seconds in the period, the Preds had a bit of momentum and were clearly pushing until a bad turnover in the defensive zone allowed the Avs a 2 on 1, which they cashed in for Alex Newhook’s 7th goal of the year. 0-2 Avs.
Overall, the second period shifted much more in the Avalanche’s favor, and not just on the scoreboard. Notice on the all-situations shot map below that the Avs (largely by virtue of their power play) were able to build up more shot attempts right in front of Saros, while the Preds largely failed to do the same in front of Georgiev.
With 20 minutes remaining, the Preds needed to make something happen to get back into the game.
At 16:35, Duchene got his own rebound and was able to finally get the puck behind Georgiev. 1-2 Avs. And boos from the home crowd rained down.
At 10:21, Evan Rodrigues got a great chance as the Avs stretched the Preds’ defense out and he found himself all alone up ice. But Saros once again stood tall and kept the Preds down by only one goal.
At 4:15, Rodrigues again got free up ice. But even with a clever spin move, Saros wasn’t fooled and the score remained 1-2 Avs.
The last two minutes of the game lacked the urgency one might expect from a team down one goal with the Preds repeatedly having issues establishing themselves in the offensive zone. With 37.4 seconds remaining in the game, Filip Forsberg got his first shot on goal. But Georgiev made a beautiful glove save and in the ensuing faceoff, the Avalanche gained possession and scored a long goal on the empty net to seal the game. 1-3 Avs.
The Predators have now lost 6 games in a row, scoring only 9 goals in that stretch. They return home on Monday to once again face the high-powered offense of the Edmonton Oilers.