Nashville Predators 3, Carolina Hurricanes 0: Return of the King

After sitting out three games and watching the painful loss to VGK on Wednesday, Pekka Rinne returns to the crease and asserts his goalie power.

After braving the Black Friday shopping mayhem and carb-loading on Thanksgiving leftovers, it was time to watch the Predators battle the Carolina Hurricanes.  The Preds traveled to Carolina looking for redemption after an excruciating OT loss on Wednesday to the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Hurricanes were coming off the rough start and recent 3-2 loss against the NY Rangers.

Tonight we saw Pekka RInne’s return in goal after three consecutive starts by Juuse Saros.  After starting the season hot, Rinne struggled in November between the pipes.  The Hurricanes started Petr Mrázek in net. For the sixth time in a row the Preds played Turris-less, but who’s counting?  (Me. I am counting. #FreeTurris.)

What Happened

The first shot came from the Hurricanes less than a minute into the game, but Rinne flexed his goalie muscles and stopped a slot shot.  Within five minutes Rinne was forced to stop two quick shots, but handled them with his October finesse.  The Preds had their first serious shot chance about five minutes into the first period from Austin Watson, but Mrázek denied it with a kick save.  The scoring finally got started by one of the Predators fan favorites, Rocco Grimaldi, who received a lob pass from Nick Bonino and put it through the five hole at 8:15 in the first period.

(Who doesn’t like Rocco Grimaldi and what is wrong with those people?)

The first penalty was taken at 12:35 by Andrei Svechnikov for roughing. The Preds got four shots on net during the power play, but came away with nothing more on the scoreboard. Beautiful skating and a perfect pass from Filip Forsberg led to the Preds’ second goal by Calle Järnkrok at 17:55, for his ninth goal of the season.

The joy was short-lived as Colton Sissons was called for a somewhat questionable high stick and the Preds’ penalty kill was tested. The period ended with the Hurricanes still on the power play, but Rinne shutting it down until the first period buzzer.

Period two started with the Hurricanes still on the power play, but the Predators got a few more beautiful saves by Rinne.  After yet another Mikael Granlund near-goal, the Predators finally add an actual goal on a shot by Mattias Ekholm tipped in by Austin Watson at 3:28.

After much back and forth, the Hurricanes headed back on the power play when the Preds got caught with too many men on the ice at 11:14. Ryan Johansen had a critical penalty kill clear after Watson was stuck on the ice with a broken stick, and the Hurricanes were unable to convert on the man advantage. At 15:53 the roles reversed, and the Predators headed on the power play thanks to an interference call on Jake Gardiner. The Preds set up a wide (and often unproductive) power play, and ended with nothing but a better-rested Hurricanes player at the end of those two minutes. Second period ended with the Predators up 3-0.

At 2:59 in the third period, the Predators headed back on the power play thanks again to Gardiner, this time for tripping Forsberg. This power play didn’t produce many chances, and the score remained 3-0 after Gardiner left the sin bin. Rinne maintained his strong presence in the goal against several good chances by the Hurricanes.

Despite much protesting by the Predators, Watson headed to the penalty box for elbowing at 6:16. While the Preds struggled earlier this season with the penalty kill, these two minutes were nearly flawless and the Hurricanes never got a chance to set up any offense. There was a terrifying chance for Sebastian Aho to score at 14:39, but fortunately his shot went high.

Power play four came for the Predators at 17:20, courtesy of a call on Joel Edmundson for holding. This time it wasn’t quite as frustrating to watch the passes around the perimeter as the Preds worked the clock. The final :40 seconds slipped off the clock and the Predators recorded a very important win!

Random Observations

  • That Carolina ice is extra slippery tonight.  Four different Predators wiped out in the first period.
  • Hamhuis holding the puck against the boards has caused some seriously unpleasant flashbacks. Bless his heart.
  • Would it be inappropriate to start a GoFundMe page for the $20,000 Fisher Suite?
  • Pekka is WELL rested.  Haven’t seen any of the November Pekka (although I adore him all year long). Key saves. Tons of confidence.
  • It is the cruelest of tricks to go into a commercial break thinking we are going on the power play only to return to action and see we are really on a penalty kill.
  • I have Black Friday brain. I swear every time they say “Walmark” I hear “Walmart”.
  • Hoping the injured lineman is OK. Although they sometimes frustrate me, the officials have a difficult and often dangerous job.
  • The Preds are keeping their foot on the gas in the third.
  • Pekka. Is. Everything. Always.
  • Pekka getting the donut!/

Three Stars of the Game

3. Forsberg - assist on Järnkrok goal and some spectacular puck handling

2. Grimaldi - goal and gusto

1. PEKKA RINNE - What a statement game.  Rested three games and came back like a boss.