Nashville Predators 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 6: Thunderstruck Preds fall in Tampa

It wasn’t a good night for the Preds.

The Nashville Predators headed to Tampa tonight to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It didn’t get off to the start they wanted, as Filip Forsberg took a tripping penalty after a turnover early, and Victor Hedman scored very soon after on the power play. (The fact that later in the period an almost identical tripping call that would have benefited the Preds was missed didn’t help improve the feeling.)

Matt Luff and Mikhail Sergachev exchanged greetings and roughing minors a moment later, but neither team was able to convert on the 4v4. The teams fought back and forth for possession in the neutral zone before the Preds got a power-play chance of their own when Patrick Maroon elbowed Yakov Trenin. Although they had a few good looks, including two great chances from Alexandre Carrier, the Preds weren’t able to even the score with the skater advantage.

A turnover in the neutral zone with about nine minutes left in the period allowed Anthony Cirelli to get in behind all the Preds’ defenders and score to put the Lightning up 2-0. Philip Tomasino rang iron on an immediate retaliatory attempt, but the score held.

A couple of minutes later, Nick Cousins cross-checked Nikita Kucherov, but managed to draw a retaliatory slash, getting Kucherov off the ice for two minutes and putting the teams 4v4 again. Neither team was able to score, and then the Preds headed back to the power play when Cal Foote was called for interference against Michael McCarron. Roman Josi got the Preds on the board with a power-play goal. It was close, as the Preds almost turned the puck over again right before that, but this time things worked out.

Still, with under two minutes left in the period, Tanner Jeannot cross-checked Sergachev and it was the Lightning’s turn to go back on the power play. While Juuse Saros made some big saves, Kucherov scored off a faceoff to make it 3-1 Lightning. The period mercifully came to an end seconds after that.

The Lightning started the second period back on the attack, and although the Preds had a brief flurry of chances early they struggled to generate sustained momentum. With six minutes elapsed, Maroon took another penalty, this one against McCarron, and the Preds got another chance on the power play.

Nicholas Paul got a great shorthanded chance but missed the net; that was it for the Preds’ power play, except for Mattias Ekholm getting a high stick to the face that knocked him to the ice but wasn’t called. Once he got out of the box, Maroon immediately took another penalty, and Corey Perry tried to goad Ekholm into a retaliation; despite Perry’s cross-check (which Ekholm returned) and shove to the throat (which Ekholm did not), Maroon was the only player penalized for those few seconds.

The Lightning got a flurry of shorthanded chances on this power play, with some fantastic defensive plays from Forsberg helping Saros keep the Preds’ deficit from widening. The Preds rewarded both players for their defense with a power-play goal scored by Carrier off a great no-look pass from Tomasino.

Now trailing by one, the Preds were unable to keep up the pressure, and Steven Stamkos made himself felt on the scoresheet thanks to a no-look pass of his own from Kucherov, restoring the Lightning’s two-goal lead. Jeannot tried to respond, but Brian Elliot made a few great saves. The Preds got some more chances in the dying seconds of the period, but a turnover by Dante Fabbro let the Lightning come back and finish the period in the Preds’ zone.

Some early pressure by the Lightning in the third left Saros sprawling facedown entirely outside of his crease to cover the puck; he managed it, thwarting Stamkos with the attempt, but on the faceoff after Hedman went post and in (or, technically, Ross Colton’s leg then post then in), giving the Lightning a 5-2 lead. 31 seconds later, Maroon scored to make it 6-2.

That was it for Saros, as David Rittich came in in relief. The Preds located the offensive zone,  but weren’t able to score, and with 12:36 remaining in the game Cousins and Jan Rutta dropped the gloves after Rutta got tired of Cousins taking swipes at assorted Lightning players and Cousins took exception to Rutta’s objection.

Although the Preds continued taking shots at Elliot over the remainder of the period, it was pretty clearly over, and 6-2 in fact remained the final score.

It’s fair at this point to wonder what the Preds’ plan if they make it into the playoffs is; it’s all very well to talk about hoping to stay ahead of Dallas and Vegas, but the performances we’ve seen from them against good teams this month haven’t on the whole been inspiring. Hopefully we see a more hope-inspiring performance tomorrow against Minnesota.