Nashville Predators 2, New York Islanders 6: Yikes

Another lackluster effort from the Predators, this time without otherworldly goaltending, leads to the second consecutive home loss of the season.

The Predators returned to Nashville tonight, playing the second half of their first back-to-back of the season against a rested New York Islanders team.

They’d started last night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks playing terribly, and only a fantastic effort from Pekka Rinne kept them in it at all. Since the Preds have consistently struggled to play defense in front of Juuse Saros, who got the start tonight, there were some questions going in about how well they’d do. The back-to-back just added more worries.

If you skipped the game, I’ll spoil it for you now: those worries were justified.

The Preds started the game off skating, which was an improvement. Unfortunately, less than two minutes in, Ryan Johansen took another bad penalty. The Isles’ legendarily bad power play gave up a decent shorthanded chance to Viktor Arvidsson, then got their act together and took a few shots of their own. Saros gave up a pretty bad five-hole goal and the Preds were down 0-1 less than five minutes into the game.

After another five minutes or so, the Preds started trying to get a few more shots toward the goal. The third and fourth lines have managed most of the offensive zone time I’ve noticed—no sign of the top six. Yannick Weber made a few good defensive plays he shouldn’t have had to make. Then, because he’s Yannick Weber, he also made a few bad defensive plays he shouldn’t have made to balance it out.

Late in the period, Mattias Ekholm drew a tripping call. On the faceoff to start the power play, Filip Forsberg got assessed a delay of game, because obviously he didn’t want that power play to start? The four-on-four was largely uneventful, and with half a minute left in the period Calle Järnkrok drew another penalty. The refs let that one happen, but no joy.

Tony Bitetto’s defensive play was brutal this game. He had a few shots on goal, but he was awful in the Preds’ end. Yber looked very solid by comparison.

A few minutes into the second period Kevin Fiala fought his way through two white jerseys to get a shot on goal, and Forsberg scored on the rebound. Unfortunately, the Preds weren’t able to get any momentum or offensive pressure going after that. A bad call against Forsberg after a post-whistle scrum led to some more four-on-four hockey.

Next up, it was Bitetto’s turn to get victimized by a questionable penalty call. Ryan Pulock scored off the faceoff to restore the Isles’ one-goal lead, and then the referees called a bench minor on Peter Laviolette. The Smashville faithful booed through most of the Isles’ power play. The Preds almost got it together for the rest of the period, but another must-save goal dribbled past Saros with thirty seconds left. It was 1-3 heading into intermission.

Twelve seconds into the fourth period, John Tavares scored to make it 1-4. Anders Lee took a penalty right after, giving the Preds a chance to stop the bleeding on the power play. They didn’t. Shortly after he got out of the box, Lee helped Tavares score on a fantastic pinball deflection off of two Preds defenders.

Moments after that, Miikka Salomäki failed to keep the puck in the zone and took a desperation penalty, tripping Tavares on his way out. Tavares completed his natural hat trick on the power play. I’m really not sure what Ekholm was doing lying on the ice in front of the goal at the time, but I’m also really not sure it made any difference.

By this point the game was just unraveling, in terms of play and in terms of behavior. Salomäki managed to draw a penalty out of (accidentally?) slew-footing Nick Leddy. Craig Smith scored his third of the season, and his second in the last two games, on the ensuing power play, cutting the Isles’ lead to a mere four goals with over six minutes still to play.

Hostilities with intermittent hockey continued until the game, mercifully, ended.

To do him credit, Saros made a few good saves, but I think it’s impossible to deny he needs to play more than twice a month to be effective. The team also desperately needs some offense. This is the kind of game that last night’s could easily have been. The Preds can’t rely on goaltending to carry them forever.

Random Observations

  • Samuel Girard is back in the press box and Long Islander Tony Bitetto is on the ice. #FreeGirard
  • A lot of players on both teams are struggling to stay on their feet early, including guys who are usually excellent skaters.
  • Fantastic sliding block by Yber. Perfectly timed and got the puck well out of danger.
  • Salomäki-Sissons-Watson getting some time in the offensive zone, creating some chances. Isn’t it nice not having McLeod weighing the fourth line down?
  • Yber follows up his good sliding block with a bad sliding block.
  • Gaudreau with another chance. He’s looked very good since getting the call up.
  • Ah yes, delaying your power play, that’s what everyone wants to do.
  • Forsberg appears to have gotten a penalty for being put in a headlock from behind and tackled to the ice.
  • The Isles’ power play appears to be getting all of its regression out of the way in one night. So does the Preds’ penalty kill, I guess.
  • Bench minor for...what?
  • Seriously, bench minor for what?
  • Salomäki-Johansen-Watson is wreaking some havoc in the offensive zone. Has anyone seen Colton Sissons lately?
  • Oh, there he is. Not sure that switching the first-line center and the fourth-line center is the best plan for a team struggling this much to get any offense going.
  • Miikka Salomäki might have just broken another guy. I hope Leddy’s okay.
  • He is. That’s good.
  • Smith!!!
  • Nelson just tried to fight Subban for bodychecking Eberle, if you still wondered how this game was going.
  • Yber failed to stop a breakaway, Beauvillier failed to take the shot properly, Saros failed to cover the rebound twice...just an ugly sequence all around. No goal against, though./

OTF Super Duper Stars of the Game

  1. Craig Smith — he didn’t quit on the game, and hey, he scored a goal. If Smith is going to get back to being a consistently reliable goalscorer, that’ll help the Preds out a lot.
  2. Austin Watson — led the team in 5v5 shot share, despite getting matched to Eberle’s line, and didn’t take any stupid penalties.
  3. You, if you didn’t turn your TV off or walk out of the game.

Tweets of the Night

And here’s something a lot cuter than the game that followed:

Game Extras