The Nashville Predators took on the Arizona Coyotes tonight, pushing to secure the WC #1 spot and control their own fate heading into the playoffs. The Dallas Stars were facing an emergency backup goalie in Anaheim and holding a third-period lead, leaving the Preds with a game they had to win if they wanted the advantage. Mattias Ekholm, meanwhile, was out for maintenance, leaving Jeremy Davies to slot back into the lineup.
Colton Sissons got the scoring off with a goal 25 seconds into the game. Philip Tomasino had another chance a minute and a half later, and while he missed, Ryan Johansen was able to collect the puck and put it past Karel Vejmelka for a two-goal lead with 2:06 elapsed. Less than a minute after that, Eeli Tolvanen—back from being healthy scratched—added a third, and Coyotes head coach Andre Tourigny called a timeout.
After the timeout, the Coyotes went on the attack. Connor Ingram made his first save with a little over five minutes elapsed in the period, though he managed to touch the puck while it was going around the boards a moment or two earlier.
With 6:57 elapsed in the game, Mikael Granlund collected a great pass from Matt Duchene and scored to make it 4-0 and send Vejmelka off for the evening. Harri Sateri replaced him in net. Sateri’s first save was greeted with loud cheers from the arena. Whether or not the Preds were scoreboard-watching, the rest of us learned that the Stars won their game, leaving the Preds in need of getting at least one point, goalie change or no goalie change.
Filip Forsberg hit another post, adding to his unlucky streak of the last infinity, and the Coyotes headed into the Preds’ zone. For several minutes the teams went back and forth, before Shayne Gostisbehere became the beneficiary of a lucky pinball shot that went past Connor Ingram and into the net to make it 4-1.
At the same time, Mark Borowiecki and Bokondji Imama dropped the gloves behind the play and were called for five minutes each for fighting. Some further hostilities a moment later didn’t result in any penalties called, and the game continued. Ingram had to make a big save with a little over a minute left in the period, but he made it.
The Coyotes started the second period well—definitely better than they’d started the first, but also not bad in general, holding a shallow edge in possession. The Preds eventually started working their way back toward the Coyotes’ zone, and Forsberg was stymied again.
Halfway through the period, Alex Carrier drew a slashing penalty and the Preds went to the power play. Sateri made some good saves, including a last-minute one on Tomasino again, and the Coyotes killed the penalty off. They continued to press, eventually scoring on a point shot through traffic to cut the Preds’ lead to two and make the score 4-2 Preds.
With 1:36 remaining in the second, Jack McBain retrieved a rebound and managed to push it past Ingram, making it a one-goal game. And, with 15 seconds remaining, Granlund was called for interference and the Preds were sent to the penalty kill. There was a scare towards the end of the penalty kill, and although the Preds warded off the initial flurry, as Granlund was released from the box Michael Carcone tied the game 4-4.
The Preds tried to respond, but the Coyotes pushed back, and Duchene high-sticked Nick Schmaltz hard enough to draw blood. The embattled Preds returned to the penalty kill. With some help from a sprawling save from Ingram, they got the first penalty killed off. Yakov Trenin helped Ingram out with a rebound in the second penalty, and with four seconds left Tanner Jeannot drew a tripping penalty, sending Travis Boyd to the box and the Preds back to the power play.
They failed to score, and after the mid-period TV timeout Gostisbehere went post and in to give the Coyotes a 5-4 lead.
A moment later, a collision left Nathan Smith down on the ice for a while while a trainer came out to check on him. He eventually made it off, and play resumed. Luke Kunin tried to respond to the goal, but Sateri made the save.
As the period wound down, the Preds continued to struggle to generate offense, and then even to get out of their own end. Ingram was forced to stay in the net as the clock ticked down toward one minute, before finally taking off. With 36.5 seconds left, the puck went out of play; the call on the ice was that it was deflected, even though it later seemed to have gone over thanks to a Coyotes player.
Even with the offensive zone faceoff and the extra attacker, the Preds were unable to tie the game and send it to overtime. They will be facing the Colorado Avalanche next week.