The Nashville Predators took on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight in the first outdoor game in Nashville—and only the second in Preds franchise history—as well as a game that would matter a great deal to their precarious position in the Central Division standings.
Less than a minute and twenty seconds into the game, Ryan Johansen shouldered Erik Cernak in the head. Cernak was slow to get up and left to get checked out; the penalty was called as a match for an illegal check to the head, but reduced on review to a minor. The Preds’ penalty kill was on the job, limiting the Lightning’s chances for most of the duration of their skater advantage and escaping out the other side intact.
The next power-play opportunity came for the Preds, as Mathieu Joseph was called for a high stick on Roman Josi. As the penalty wound down, Tanner Jeannot scooped up a rebound and put it past Andrei Vasilevskiy to get the Preds on the board.
The teams traded chances after that, before Pat Maroon dropped the gloves looking for a fight with Michael McCarron, who accepted the offer. Maroon lost his helmet early; credit to McCarron for sticking with punches to the body after that.
Cernak’s return was a welcome sight, though he appeared to be holding a grudge against Johansen for the hit earlier in the period. The teams continued to exchange chances, with the Preds getting slightly the better of them.
With ten seconds left in the period, Matt Benning took a penalty against Alex Killorn and the Lightning went back to the power play. While the Preds made it through the first ten seconds, when they returned from intermission Brayden Point collected a fantastic pass from Nikita Kucherov and scored to tie the game 1-1.
A few minutes after this, Johansen and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got into a fight, with a little bit of contribution from Maroon. Just after that, Jeannot took a high-sticking penalty, and Kucherov scored himself on the ensuing power play to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. Less than a minute after that, though, Ryan McDonagh took a penalty of his own and the Preds got a chance back on the power play themselves.
They were unable to convert, and though they continued to press hard for a moment after the teams returned to even strength, the Lightning got their skates back under them and went on the attack. The Bolts were able to goad Philippe Myers into taking a penalty, and although Jeannot got a shorthanded chance, neither team scored.
The third period began on the tail end of that penalty kill, after which the Preds finally managed to stop bleeding chances and get a few shots of their own off. They were rewarded seven minutes into the period by getting another power play, as Bellemare took an interference penalty. Mathieu Joseph got a shorthanded breakaway, but Juuse Saros was able to make the save.
The Lightning killed the penalty, then scored—courtesy of Steven Stamkos—to take a 3-1 lead. However, Victor Hedman couldn’t resist taking a hooking penalty on Johansen, and Filip Forsberg scored almost immediately on the power play, bringing the Preds back within one less than a minute after Stamkos’s goal.
With less than eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Predators pressed the attack, but stalled out as the period continued. Saros was pulled for the extra attacker, but the Preds were unable to manage a third goal.