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Nashville Predators 1, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: Penalties, lack of offense catch up

Juuse Saros can only do so much.

NHL: JAN 11 Predators at Maple Leafs Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Nashville Predators continued their road trip tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kevin Lankinen was a game-time decision, and the Preds ended up recalling Yaroslav Askarov from Milwaukee to serve as backup. The Leafs, meanwhile, were minus Auston Matthews, but still dangerous—as the Preds would discover.

An early push by the Leafs followed by a Tanner Jeannot interference penalty didn’t get the Preds off to the best start, but some good penalty-killing work by Ryan McDonagh and the rest of the Preds skaters let them escape unscathed. Halfway through the period, Dryden Hunt took an OZ penalty and gave the Preds a chance on the power play, but Matt Murray made some great saves and the score remained 0-0.

The Leafs continued a long sequence of uninterrupted chances before John Tavares drew first blood with just over three minutes left in the period, collecting a pass from William Nylander and getting it neatly past Juuse Saros to give the Leafs the 1-0 lead.

Jusso Pärssinen set Filip Forsberg up for the equalizer early in the second, but only some back-and-forth play followed. Mark Jankowski took an interference penalty shortly after. The Preds were able to kill it off, with some dedicated work in the neutral zone helping stymie the Leafs’ power play. Alex Kerfoot then drew another, sending Dante Fabbro off on Nashville’s third interference penalty of the night.

Again, some great penalty killing by the Preds—notably Yakov Trenin and Mattias Ekholm, here—helped stifle the Leafs’ power play. A missed call as Matt Duchene got tripped as the second-period buzzer sounded left Duchene irate and the Predators briefly energized heading into the third—but only briefly.

Another missed call in the third, a Nylander high-stick on Jeremy Lauzon, forced Saros to make an excellent save as one of his defenders was taken out of the play entirely. Finally Roman Josi drew a holding-the-stick penalty, to the great displeasure of the crowd, halfway through the third to give the Preds another power play. A distracted Nino Niederreiter collided with David Kampf as the power play wound down, but the refs reviewed the play and determined it was a collision, not a penalty. Still, even with the full two minutes, Nashville was unable to convert.

Though Kampf stayed out for the rest of the Leafs’ penalty kill, he was not on the bench when the broadcast returned from commercial; the Toronto arena reacted to this with characteristic equanimity. Moments later, though, Mark Jankowski took an OZ penalty of his own, drawing blood with a high stick to Morgan Rielly’s face, and the fans got their wish for a power play granted.

With 1:15 remaining in regulation, Nylander took advantage of Alexandre Carrier losing his stick to set Mitch Marner up for the go-ahead goal. Saros immediately headed to the bench for the extra skater, but no dice.