Nashville Predators 1, Pittsburgh Penguins 3: Late collapse starts rebuild era
Despite Saros’s best efforts, the team could not execute.
The depleted Nashville Predators faced the Pittsburgh Penguins at home tonight, hours after Mattias Ekholm also headed out in a trade. Cal Foote stepped in on defense, while Luke Evangelista made his NHL debut on offense.
Tristan Jarry had to make a good save very early on, as Mikael Granlund raced in on a breakaway just seconds into the game and then got his own rebound. Jarry had both saves, however, and the game continued. While the Penguins monopolized the puck for a long stretch of the period, the Preds blocked some shots and eventually got it back.
At 13:34 Roman Josi was able to draw a penalty from Jake Guentzel. The Preds put a surprisingly impressive power play forth, but were unable to score, and the Penguins seemed energized by their successful penalty kill. They finished the period strong, though the teams headed to intermission with no score.
Granlund started the second period off not with a scoring chance but with a penalty, heading to the box for tripping Guentzel at 0:45. Almost as soon as Granlund was released from the box, Cal Foote made his first mark on the game sheet as a Nashville Predator by taking an interference penalty.
The Preds were able to kill that off as well, and even managed a little bit of pushback late in the period, but again the teams headed to intermission with no score. Cole Smith started the third period off by taking a holding penalty against Sidney Crosby, but the Preds again killed it off, with Granlund getting a shorthanded breakaway just as the penalty expired.
Mark Jankowski drew first blood at 7:01 of the third, powering through the Penguins’ defense after a turnover. Shortly after, Evangelista drew a retaliatory penalty from Jan Rutta with a hard hit on Evgeni Malkin and the Preds went to the power play. Nashville was unable to score, and although Juuse Saros was able to make the save as Rutta took the puck away heading out of the box, he wasn’t able to make one on Crosby seconds later.
With the game tied 1-1 at 11:00 of the third, the Preds were unable to generate much offense. Jason Zucker scored the gamewinner at 18:21, and despite a valiant late effort by the Preds with Saros pulled, they were unable to find the equalizer. Bryan Rust scored the empty-netter with seven seconds remaining.