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Nashville Predators 4, Vegas Golden Knights 5 (OT): Third period surge not enough

The Preds closed out the year with an up-and-down game and a loser point.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators closed out the year in Vegas with the second of a back-to-back, two-game road trip. Going in, the Predators looked like the underdog, but extensive injuries on the Vegas Golden Knights’ roster gave the Preds an opening to end the disappointing 2022 portion of the season on an up beat.

First Period

The Preds came out looking disorganized leading to a scramble in front of Kevin Lankinen mere seconds into the game. Initially, the difference between these teams was most observable as they moved through the neutral zone: Vegas cutting through like a knife through butter and getting easily set up in the offensive zone, while the Preds struggled to get the puck out with possession.

However, Filip Forsberg drew first blood, continuing his goal streak for a 3rd consecutive game. A turnover by Brayden McNabb in the Vegas zone went straight to Forsberg, who circled in front of the net to out-wait Vegas goalie Logan Thompson, who went down, allowing Forsberg to lift the puck over Thompson’s outstretched arm from a sharp angle and into the back of the net.

The Golden Knights almost evened things up half way thorough the period, but a series of lucky bounces and Kevin Lankinen kept the puck out of the net.

With 9 minutes remaining in the period, Cody Glass almost had a goal in his first game against his former team when his shot got between the legs of Thompson, but it failed to get across the goal line. However, in the scramble moments later, Dante Fabbro passed the puck across the blue line to Mikael Granlund, who then passed forward to Jeremy Lauzon in the left circle who ripped it top shelf to make the score 2-0. This was the first goal of the year for Lauzon.

With 4:04 left in the period, sustained pressure from the Golden Knights paid off when Keegan Kolesar tipped in a Daniil Miromanov point shot to cut the lead in half 2-1 Preds.

At the end of the first, VGK had more than doubled Nashville’s shot attempts and done a better job of getting to the blue ice.

5v5 unblocked shots heat map after one period | NaturalStatTrick.com

Vegas also had the advantage in shot quality with 15 scoring chances and 10 high-danger shot attempts to Nashville’s 5 and 2. But where it counted, the Preds were up 2-1 heading to the locker room.

Second Period

The Preds had trouble getting anything going in the start of the period, which culminated 1:43 in with a pretty passing play and a goal by Michael Amadio to tie the game up on Vegas’s first shot of the period. 2-2.

Glass put in every ounce of his effort and playmaking ability trying to get things back on track for the Preds, but Thompson read the tic-tac-toe play well and made the save on Nino Niederreiter.

With 12 minutes remaining in the period, an amazing no-look backwards pass by Granlund below the goal line gave Niederreiter another chance, but he couldn’t get it back the Vegas goaltender.

Less than a minute after that, Vegas’ Reilly Smith put one home to give the Golden Knights their first lead of the game. 2-3.

A high hit by McNabb on Mark Jankowski—who went straight to the locker room—precipitated an immediate reaction from Yakov Trenin, who was given a 5-minute fighting major, a 2-minute instigator penalty and 10-minute misconduct. This was offset by five for fighting and a major penalty against McNabb for a check to the head, leading to a 2-minute 4-on-4 followed by a 3-minute power play for Nashville.

8 seconds into the Nashville power play, Roman Josi took a holding penalty to stop a William Karlsson prime scoring chance which came about because of a Duchene turnover at the Nashville blue line. This led to another 2 minutes of 4-on-4 play, reducing the Nashville power play to one minute.

In the end, a single minute of the Nashville power play was not enough for them to get organized.

With 3:54 left in the period, a crosscheck by Jake Leschyshyn on Juuso Pärssinen gave Nashville another power play. The first power play unit of Pärssinen, Ryan Johansen, Forsberg, Josi and Tommy Novak got a good look early, but pressure on Parssinen at the blue line led to a turnover, costing the Preds their initial momentum. The second power play unit were largely held to the outside, despite some reasonable puck movement.

Overall, the Preds played a bit better in the second period, matching up pretty evenly against Vegas everywhere on the stat sheet—except where it counted. But they went into the locker room with a pretty big task: to get at least two more goals by Logan Thompson.

5v5 unblocked shots heat map after two periods | NaturalStatTrick.com

Third Period

Early in the third, miscommunication between Lankinen and his defenders led to confusion and a turn-over behind the Predators net. Fortunately for the Preds, the net was dislodged, leading to a stoppage in play.

Once again, the Predators showed an inability to move the puck through the middle of the ice, which eventually led to a goal for Chandler Stephenson for their fourth unanswered Vegas goal of the game. 2-4.

The Golden Knights nearly went up by three when 14 hit the post. But Vegas continued the pressure, resulting in an Alex Carrier holding penalty and the Knights’ first power play of the game. Vegas had Nashville trapped in their defensive zone for the entire two minutes, but the penalty killers did manage to kill the penalty.

Shortly after the penalty was over, a great pass by Granlund gave Josi a good chance, but he could not find the back of the net.

With 8:18 remaining, a shot by Ryan McDonagh from the blue line was tipped in by Forsberg for his second goal of the game and his 500th career point, drawing the Predators to within 1. 3-4.

Following the second Forsberg goal, the Glass line had a number of good opportunities as they applied the pressure to Vegas. But Thompson stood tall, keeping the Vegas lead at one.

This momentum continued for much of the remainder of the third period with the Preds keeping Vegas from any sustained offensive pressure. Unfortunately, generally disorganized play from the Preds meant that they did not get much offensive pressure themselves during this time frame.

With the goalie pulled, Reilly Smith high sticked Forsberg in the mouth to put the Preds on the power play with only 1:10 remaining in regulation, giving the Predators a 6-on-4 opportunity. While the Predators managed some sustained pressure during this final minute, it looked like the Preds were not going to make it happen until Filip Forsberg (long may he reign) put the puck over Thompson’s pad and under his glove to finish a hat trick, with 3.3 seconds remaining in regulation. 4-4.

The Predators surged at the end of the third, outdoing the Golden Knights in both shots and scoring chances. That (and Filip Forsberg) was enough to get them to overtime.

5v5 unblocked shots heat map after three periods | NaturalStatTrick.com

Overtime

With one point in hand, the Predators went into 3-on-3 overtime.

Mere seconds in it looked like the Predators might win it as Forsberg beat the goalie, but not the post. But more turnover problems gave Vegas some offensive pressure resulting in a a penalty by the Preds and a Vegas goal during the delayed penalty period when the exhausted Predators players collapsed around the goal, giving Vegas’s passing game free rein until Nicolas Hague put the puck in the back of the neck. 4-5.

Summary

While the Preds clearly surged in the third period, they seemed overwhelmed by a superior team for large stretches earlier in the the game. Cody Glass and Filip Forsberg stood out throughout the game. And while Glass could not find the scoresheet, Forsberg’s hat trick carried the Preds to a point to end their year.