After a tough Saturday night loss at home against the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators flew to Pittsburgh to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for an afternoon game. Head Coach John Hynes was not particularly happy with the team’s performance against the Panthers last night, and the Predators were looking for a quick rebound against a Pittsburgh team whose recent record doesn’t reflect their talent.
Pittsburgh entered this afternoon’s game going 3-6-1 in their last ten games, including dropping their last four. They are still solidly in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Sidney Crosby is just ahead of Jake Guentzel for points leader on the team, but Guentzel is the goal leader. Bryan Rust is having a strong season, although he has missed a chunk of the season due to injury. Backup goalie Casey DeSmith took his place in net against the Predators.
The Predators made a goalie announcement just prior to the game this afternoon.
#Preds goaltender Juuse Saros is day-to-day with a non-COVID illness and will not dress today at Pittsburgh. Connor Ingram has been recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) and will back up David Rittich this afternoon.— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) April 10, 2022
The Predators lineup saw a few minor adjustments. Matt Benning returned to the ice on the third defensive pairing, and Dante Fabbro was a healthy scratch, which moved Jeremy Lauzon up to play with Roman Josi.
The Predators still have work to do to secure a spot in the postseason, and two points today would have been helpful.
The Predators needed to play with more of a competitive edge, according to John Hynes, and Nashville began the game with physical play. Unfortunately, a turnover by Nashville led to the first goal of the game by Sidney Crosby at 4:58.
The Crosby goal seemed to briefly rattle the Predators, but Nashville got some offensive looks shortly after. Matt Luff had an open shot on DeSmith shortly after the Crosby goal, and Tanner Jeannot also had a chance in front of the net. Mikael Granlund and Phil Tomasino had a two-on-one chance, but couldn’t find the back of the net at the end of their shift.
It took the Predators until the last 1:11 of the period to get on the board. Mikael Granlund fed Matt Duchene a perfectly-placed long pass, and Duchene lifted the puck past DeSmith. Nashville’s defense held Pittsburgh to only three shots on goal in the first twenty minutes, and the period ended with the game tied 1-1.
The first few minutes of the second period were punctuated by quick back-and-forth possessions. Pittsburgh had a netfront opportunity as Rittich struggled to corral the puck in traffic. Nashville’s best chance early on came as Tanner Jeannot had a back-door look that was stopped by the pad of DeSmith.
As the intensity of the period picked up, Tanner Jeannot launched Kris Letang with a clean hit, and Mike Matheson took exception. Jeannot and Matheson dropped the gloves, which (as usual) didn’t end well for Jeannot’s opponent. Both Jeannot and Matheson headed to the penalty box to cool off for five minutes.
A scrum in the slot resulted in a hooking penalty call on Alexandre Carrier at 10:24, giving Pittsburgh the first power play of the game. Nashville’s penalty kill has been solid lately, and they killed off the two minutes, allowing only one shot on goal.
Almost immediately after the teams returned to five a side, Kasperi Kapanen headed to the box for an interference call at 12:39. Nashville’s first power play unit had a few chances, but neither they nor the second unit could capitalize on the man advantage.
Nashville quickly got another chance on the power play as Kris Letang tripped Filip Forsberg at 16:28. Nashville again couldn’t score on the power play. Pittsburgh pushed when they returned to full strength through the end of the period. As the buzzer sounded, Evgeni Malkin slashed Mark Borowiecki and then punched him in the face with his stick, leaving Boro bleeding and the referees sorting out how the third period would start.
Malkin was awarded a double minor for his shot on Boro, and somehow Boro was called for a slash as well, giving Nashville just a two-minute power play to start the period. Brian Boyle slashed Eeli Tolvanen during the power play, so Nashville had :35 of five-on-three play. Nashville didn’t win the faceoff, which wasted a chunk of the two-man advantage. As time expired on that, the Predators struggled to get the puck set up in the offensive zone and the final seconds of the man advantage expired.
Killing the penalty gave Pittsburgh a burst of momentum, but a second two-on-one chance led to a rebound in the slot that Nick Cousins sent past DeSmith at 4:31.
Pittsburgh pushed back, interrupting a few quick zone entries for Nashville. Play went back and forth until 8:53, when Pittsburgh tied the game up on a goal by Jason Zucker as the Pens quickly attacked in the offensive zone.
Each team had periods of offensive pressure, but neither team could gain a strong advantage. Eeli Tolvanen, who has struggled finding the back of the net, had a great shot from the slot but was robbed by DeSmith.
The intensity and pace picked up in the last five minutes of the tied game as each team pushed for the regulation gamewinner. Neither team could find the back of the net, and the game headed to overtime.
Pittsburgh won the overtime faceoff. Each team quickly had their chance to end the game. A flurry in front of Rittich resulted in Sidney Crosby tapping the puck in the net with 2:35 left, giving Pittsburgh the win in overtime.
- The hit by Malkin on Borowiecki at the end of the second period should get a long look by the league. Games between these two teams are often chippy, but the shot Malkin took to Boro’s face was dirty hockey. That should be a suspension, but we will have to wait to hear what the NHL decides.
- Not Nashville’s “A” game. Nashville has the talent to beat this Penguins team, but just couldn’t execute cleanly enough to put the game away.
- One point is better than zero points. It doesn’t feel great, but the Predators at least come away with one point.