The Nashville Predators headed west to take on the Seattle Kraken tonight. The Preds were fighting for playoff positioning, while the Kraken at this point are pretty much fighting for their own pride—gold drafting would be nice.
The teams traded chances early, with Juuse Saros and Kraken goalie Chris Driedger both making some saves. While the pace was initially slow, about halfway through the first period the Kraken got a serious flurry of offense going, and then after another moment another great chance off a turnover.
Still, the first goal of the game was scored by Philip Tomasino, scoring on a shot that pinballed off Driedger’s stick on its way to him. Roman Josi, who collected the puck below the offensive goal line, got his 500th career point on an assist on that goal.
Alex Wennberg almost retaliated moments later, but Saros was able to make the stop. Moments after that, Saros lost both his stick and his blocker in a collision with Phil Myers, and with his mask still on and the Kraken in possession there was no whistle for a goalie equipment issue. Incredibly, Saros managed to make a save and freeze the puck, getting the much-needed whistle with his hand bones still intact.
The Kraken pushed back hard to end the period, but were unable to tie things up before intermission. Some nice chances for the home team were followed by a fantastic shift by the Preds’ top line, in which Yanni Gourde took the first penalty of the game. Riley Sheahan got a shorthanded chance, but the Preds recovered possession and Matt Duchene was able to convert and give his team a two-goal lead.
On the next shift, Wennberg—again—tried to get it back, and this time he succeeded, collecting a perfect pass from Marcus Johansson and scoring past a deceived Saros. A minute and a half later, Calle Jarnkrok also scored to tie the game at 2. Barely over a minute after that, Gourde scored to give his team their first lead of the night (with an assist from another former Pred, Colin Blackwell).
Now trailing, with just under half the game remaining, the Predators still struggled to turn the tide back. Very much against the run of play, Duchene collected a pass from Eeli Tolvanen and scored to tie the game again at 3. That got the Preds going, and they were able to get some momentum on their side at last. A truly spectacular bit of skating and stickhandling from Josi almost set Duchene up for a hat trick with under two minutes left in the second, but Duchene wasn’t able to convert.
The third period started again with the teams trading chances. An iffy slashing call on Ryan Donato sent the Preds back to the power play, but it didn’t go well for them. Blackwell and Gourde connected again, this time for a shorthanded goal, with Saros stopping two of Blackwell’s shots before the third slipped under one of his pads. That one was pretty solidly on the defense, as Saros was pretty well hung out to dry there.
Things didn’t improve for the Preds from there, as the Kraken started running away with it again. Saros made a few spectacular saves, and somehow the Preds were sent back to the power play with nine minutes remaining. The Kraken again attacked shorthanded, and Saros lost his stick on their second shorthanded rush of the...“power” play.
Although the escaped unscathed, the Preds might want to consider declining the next power play they’re offered, if there is another in this game. Given referees’ game-management tactics and the fact that the Preds are trailing (and therefore likely to play more desperate), it seems unlikely.
With less than six minutes left in the third period—a period the Preds entered tied and started trailing early—I’m pretty sure Colton Sissons was the only Preds skater with more than one shot at goal in the period (two, both misses). Not the urgency you’d like to see from the team as a whole.
In the dying minutes of the period, the Kraken continued pushing as if they were the ones trailing by one goal, not giving the Preds a chance to pull Saros for the extra attacker. When the Preds finally did make it into the offensive zone, with two minutes left, Saros tried to pull himself, but Hynes didn’t seem to want him out. With one minute left, Saros made it off just before the puck went out of play for an OZ faceoff.
The tired Preds top unit, plus Tanner Jeannot, stayed out there for that final shift, but the Kraken defense held strong. Filip Forsberg, taking an uncalled penalty behind the play, was offside when the Kraken got a clear, setting up another faceoff with five seconds left in the period. It probably didn’t matter.
The Kraken got the 4-3 regulation win, and the Preds’ climb to the playoffs got that little bit harder.
OTF’s Stars of the Game:
3. Roman Josi made some good plays, not all of which showed up on the scoresheet. He occasionally sparked joy even in this slog of a game, and that’s definitely worth something.
2. Matt Duchene had a very good game, not just scoring two of the Preds’ goals but also leading the team in 5v5 xG share and all-situations individual xG (per Natural Stat Trick).