In the last home game of the regular season, the Nashville Predators took the ice against the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena. It was a night with tremendous potential for the Preds, as a regulation win could clinch Nashville a spot in the postseason. While the Predators have beaten the Flames in both of their previous matchups this season, it took extra time in both games to earn two points. Tonight Nashville needed a strong performance in sixty minutes.
With a “win and in” game and a potential postseason matchup between these two teams, Bridgestone Arena was brimming with energy as a large catfish hit the ice before the puck dropped.
Nashville started the game with an early lapse—a penalty for too many men on the ice at 2:09, putting a potent Flames power play unit on the ice. Dillion Dube made Nashville pay at 4:02 with a top shelf shot past Saros on the man advantage.
The Predators got to try their own power play out just a few minutes later on an interference call on Nikita Zadorov at 5:10. Nashville couldn’t capitalize on the power play against one of the NHL’s strongest kills, and the teams returned to five a side. Penalties continued to be the early story of the game as Roman Josi headed to the box for tripping at 7:53. The Flames got one shot on net in their two minutes, but Nashville killed the penalty.
Immediately after Josi returned to the ice, former Predator Calle Jarnkrök headed to the sin bin for slashing Dante Fabbro. Nashville spent some time set up in the offensive zone but couldn’t even the score on the power play.
Five on five play ramped up until the physicality spilled over in a fight between Tanner Jeannot and Erik Gudbranson. As Jeannot and Gudbranson left the ice, Matthew Tkachuk and Matt Duchene went after each other after Tkachuk pushed Duchene and caught him with a bonus stick to the face. The two headed to the penalty box and continued jawing back and forth as the referees tried to sort out the scrum. Tkachuk earned two minutes for high sticking and Duchene earned two minutes each for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Flames went to work on their third power play opportunity, compliments of the extra call on Duchene, at 16:53. Nashville started strong on the penalty kill, but before the two minutes could pass Mark Borowiecki and Milan Lucic dropped the gloves. The penalty expired and the teams returned to five a side.
As the first period ended, John Hynes heatedly discussed the Duchene call with the officials while Michael McCarron and Matthieu Olivier jawed with Matthew Tkachuk before heading to the locker room.
The second period started with stuffed penalty boxes for both teams but five on five action. The Calgary players had to make room right off the bat for Blake Coleman, who was caught slashing at :33. Not to be outdone, Roman Josi was quickly called for a trip at :42 and entered the standing-room-only penalty box of the Predators.
Four on four play commenced, with the Flames getting one shot on net that was easily handled by Saros. During the four on four, both Tanner Jeannot and Matt Duchene finished their sentences and re-entered the Preds’ line up.
Roman Josi exited the penalty box and at 5:41 did his penance by scoring the first goal of the game for Nashville.
The temperature of the game continued at a slow boil, but Matt Duchene kept a cool head when he found the puck on his stick and a wide open net at 8:08, giving the Predators a 2-1 lead.
Five on five play continued with the Flames generating extended offensive zone time. A tired Predators group was caught on the ice until Juuse Saros was able to stop a shot. Tkachuk invaded Saros’ space and gave a nudge to the netminder as play stopped. Luke Kunin took exception, resulting in Kunin and Tkachuk heading to the sin bin and the teams playing four on four. Dillion Dube earned his second goal of the game at 13:14 as the puck fluttered past Saros after being tipped by Ekholm’s stick.
Dube’s goal seemed to tip the ice in Calgary’s favor, but Saros came up with some big saves and the defense was able to interrupt potential shot opportunities. Nashville finally had their own extended offensive time but weren’t able to capitalize on it. As the buzzer sounded to end the second period, tempers boiled over once again and the officials had to sort out several scrums.
The final period started with the Predators on a power play due to the second period’s post-buzzer scrums. Nikita Zadorov and Blake Coleman were penalized for the Flames, and Tanner Jeannot sat in the sin bin for the Predators. Nashville quickly took advantage of the opportunity at :30 as Filip Forsberg received a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Matt Duchene to give Nashville the lead 3-2.
The lead was brief, as Noah Hanifin’s blue line shot snuck past a screened Saros at 2:03.
Nashville had another opportunity on the power play after Elias Lindholm was called for roughing at 8:51. Filip Forsberg snuck the puck past Vladar for his second power play goal of the game.
Unfortunately, Nashville headed back to the penalty box as Roman Josi was called for cross checking at 10:43. The Flames’ power play went to work and peppered Saros with shots until Nashville could clear. The Predators were able to kill the remainder of the penalty. Philip Tomasino was able to draw an interference penalty at 13:28.
Suddenly the game took a frightening turn as Juuse Saros limped off the ice and was helped down the tunnel by the trainers. He hadn’t suffered any contact right before and it’s not clear yet what went wrong. David Rittich came in net for Nashville as the Predators went to work on the power play. The Preds couldn’t convert on the man advantage this time.
As time would down, tempers flared up. Milan Lucic was called for interference for a very rough hit on Matt Duchene at 17:12. The hit gathered another crowd but resulted in yet another power play for Nashville. As the power play expired, the Flames went empty net. There was a flurry in front of the net and with less than a second left Matthew Tkachuk snuck the puck past Rittich to send this game to overtime.
Calgary got the first possession of the overtime period. Rittich came up big with two breakaway saves for Nashville, but Elias Lindholm sent a shot that squeaked past Rittich for a Calgary OT win.
- This was one spicy game. This game was Carolina-Reaper-on-the-Scoville-scale next level. There was a lot riding on it for Nashville, but Calgary came in hot as well.
- Nashville’s big players showed up. If Nashville wants to make an impact in a postseason opportunity, they will need Josi, Forsberg, and Duchene to show up. Tonight was a good example of how important it is to get those three going.
- This is a new—and potentially ugly—rivalry brewing. If these two teams meet up in the postseason, it will be one intense series.