Gone are the days of the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks fighting for the Central crown or a matchup in the playoffs. The new reality? Two teams missing long-time stars with rosters that look like an AHL reunion match. Two teams committed to the rebuild met in Chicago tonight, and the home team was quick to strike first. Former Predator Seth Jones led a quick attack from his own zone to beat Juuse Saros just 37 seconds into the game.
Seth Jones gets on the board early after Trenin can't gain possession after the dump and chase, and the former Predator bangs home the give and go to put Chicago up 1-0 vs #Smashville pic.twitter.com/NZCivGlO6A— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
The young Predators would need a few more minutes to get in rhythm following the surprising opening salvo, but with Nashville picking up momentum following attempts by John Leonard and Luke Evangelista, Jason Dickinson would draw a boarding call on Yakov Trenin to send Nashville to the power play.
#Smashville heads to the powerplay on a boarding call. I thought it was the first one along the back wall, but that seemed pretty weak. It was more obvious on the hit on Trenin. pic.twitter.com/UWdMyWJf9b— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
New Predator Tyson Barrie would quarterback the 2nd unit for Nashville, and he showed why he’s one of the leading defensemen this season in power play points. Barrie was able to make smart, efficient plays to distribute the puck throughout, eventually allowing Philip Tomasino to score off the bumper play right in front of the net, and Nashville would tie the game in the first 1-1.
Tyson Barrie is VERY good on the power play, and this was no exception. Efficient distribution of the puck and the kid Philip Tomasino gets a goal to tie the game at 1 with 10:24 left.#Smashville pic.twitter.com/Z3u0PRTNZL— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
Chicago continued to trade shot attempts with Nashville, and about three minutes after the Philip Tomasino goal, Andreas Englund would get Chicago’s second boarding call of the night on a brutal hit on the young Nashville forward. Despite the possible severity of a dangerous hit (that would lead Philip Tomasino to leave the game at the end of the period), Yakov Trenin was also called for roughing, and play went to 4 on 4.
Chicago is determined to throw some crappy hits tonight, and Englund topped them all with a second boarding call on Philip Tomasino. Looks like he didn't like Tomasino pantsing him with the puck on the play. Trenin picks up a roughing call, so play goes to 4 on 4#Smashville pic.twitter.com/KqFAn9oPhk— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
Once again playing with a short bench after Tomasino left after the boarding call, Nashville would have to mix the lines and double shift players. Chicago would continue to pepper Juuse Saros with shot attempts, but much like the game against Florida two days earlier, the Predators would allow a high volume of shot attempts (Chicago would end the period leading in attempts 21-14), but Chicago had nearly 60% of their attempts either blocked or miss the net entirely - and the Predators would end the period matched with Chicago with 9 shots on goal each. The Predators would continue to find their confidence and headed to the intermission tied at 1.
The Predators would struggle to maintain that confidence in the second period, especially without Tomasino in the lineup. Chicago would open the period with seven unanswered shots on goal, and the Nashville would draw an interference call on Nikita Zaitsev. The Nashville penalty kill would continue to be perfect on the night, and they would eventually get their first shot of the period with 9:35 left in the second. That shot by new defenseman Barrie would start a quick change in momentum, where new names like John Leonard, Rasmus Asplund (acquired from Buffalo Sabres), and McDonagh would start a flurry of chances against Petr Mrazek before Tyson Barrie would fire a shot from the blue line that would break a stick and get past Mrazek to break the tie, and Nashville would lead 2-1 with 7:52 left in the game.
A rocket from Barrie at the blue line breaks the stick of the defender and flies over the goaltender's shoulder#Smashville, 2-0 pic.twitter.com/7iJBuAqisa— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
Despite the lead, Nashville would follow Chicago’s first half efforts by getting just 7 shots on net out of 20 attempts, and both teams would stall towards the end of period, punctuated by Englund getting a holding call against Cole Smith as time expired in the second period.
Nashville would find their shooting efficiency again, with just 1 shot blocked and three misses in the third period, but the young roster was showing their inexperience, and the period dragged in the first ten minutes with just a handful of shots on either side. As play got sloppy, the teams started getting physical again, and with just over 5 minutes left in the game, Caleb Jones would apparently throw a punch at Roman Josi after losing his stick. There wasn’t a call initially, but the captain was furious about the no-call and both Jones (roughing) and Josi (Unsportsmanlike conduct) would head to the penalty box and the game would be 4 on 4 in the final minutes.
It wasn't a hard hit by any measure, but it's hard to believe that it wasn't kind of intentional. Jones gets 2 for roughing, Josi 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct pic.twitter.com/jFWY0i75vM— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
The teams would exchange just three shots as the game neared its conclusion, but with Mrazek out of the net, Cole Smith would create a turnover on the 6 on 5, and get the puck to Colton Sissons, who fired at the empty net and sealed the win with 30 seconds left in the game.
Colton Sissons hits the empty net to seal it for #Smashville. The Predators have won 6 of the last 8 since February 18th, outscoring opponents by an average of 4.1 to 2.5. Next up is a late game Tuesday night in Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/R4XzoYcobn— Bryan Bastin (@BryanBastin) March 5, 2023
Three Stars of the Game
3rd star: Philip Tomasino - 1 goal
2nd star: Juuse Saros - 27 saves on 28 shots, 1.41 goals saved above expected
1st star: Tyson Barrie - 1 goal, 4 shots, 1 high-danger attempt