Nashville Predators 3, Colorado Avalanche 5: Penalties, skill remain Preds’ problem

Kevin Lankinen had a very human night in goal, and the rest was history.

The Nashville Predators finished the road trip tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, a team they’d last seen in the first round of the playoffs—a matchup that led to the first-ever sweeping in Preds franchise history. Both teams had made some big changes since then, but you have to think the exit was on the Predators players’—and coach’s—minds.

If it was, it wasn’t in the right way.

After an initial stumble, Nashville got off to a strong start, with Eeli Tolvanen scoring a few minutes in and the Predators continuing to attack after the goal. However, that didn’t last for very long.

A Jeremy Lauzon turnover set Kevin Lankinen up for some big saves and Ryan McDonagh up to take a penalty. Although the Avs’ power play started off poorly and Lankinen made some valiant efforts, Nashville deciding to leave Mikko Rantanen unsupervised did not pay off for them, and he tied the game 1-1.

The Avalanche, invigorated by their power play, pressed the attack, and Lankinen once again had to do some work. As the period wore on, the Predators finally managed to start getting back on the attack, before Filip Forsberg took a slashing penalty with under two minutes to go in the period.

With some help from the intermission, the Predators were able to kill off the penalty and go on the counterattack. Forsberg and Matt Duchene almost managed to combine for a go-ahead goal, with Alexander Georgiev looking a little off-guard but still able to make the save. Another great Nashville chance came from the fourth line—Tolvanen, Cody Glass, and Cole Smith—but Georgiev again made the save.

Around a quarter of the way through the period, the Preds got caught out on the ice and weren’t able to get a clear. While they defended well for a while, Devon Toews was eventually able to get a shot through from center point which was tipped by Logan O’Connor to put the Avs up 2-1 at 6:34.

O’Connor scored again less than two minutes later, this time on the breakaway. The Preds responded strongly, with Nino Niederreiter trying twice for his own rebound at one point, but Georgiev held firm for long enough to get a whistle. Niederreiter did get the puck—and Georgiev—over the line, and got the enmity of the Avalanche players on the ice in the process, but no goal.

Rantanen cross-checked Mattias Ekholm down to the ice, but the ensuing power play did nothing for the Preds except to set Rantanen up for a breakaway goal on the exit. 4-1 Avs.

The Predators tried briefly to respond, but weren’t able to sustain much, and soon got pushed back into their own end. Nathan MacKinnon rang iron on one offensive swoop and, when the Preds managed a brief counterforay, drew a penalty from Jeremy Lauzon on his next entry.

This time, the Avs’ power-play goal was scored off of Colton Sissons’s shinpad by Evan Rodrigues to make it 5-1. Lankinen’s sprawling save on MacKinnon moments later was a pure representation of the persistence of hope—good to see in anyone on the roster, this game, but ultimately meaningless. Tanner Jeannot threw a late retaliatory hit against Kurtis MacDermid for an earlier late hit on Glass, and despite the outrage of the fans, no penalty was called.

Instead, the next penalty came against Artturi Lehkonen, for holding Ekholm, and the Preds were actually able to score on their power play with seconds left in the period: Ryan Johansen, off a pass from Mikael Granlund, to make it 5-2.

The Predators seemed invigorated to start the third, with a rushing Mark Jankowski crashing the net, then passing back to Dante Fabbro, who set Roman Josi up for a goal scored from halfway to Wyoming. 5-3, with 17 minutes still to go in the third.

Play see-sawed back and forth for the rest of the period as the teams fought for advantage, though the Preds were able to block most of the shots the Avalanche did take—a nice change from some previous third periods. Duchene had a good chance late, but it was still 5-3 when Hynes pulled Lankinen.

The first 6-on-5 play yielded no benefits; the second, after a reset, was the same but with better play from the Predators. It was a better loss than some we’ve seen this year, but it still wasn’t good, and it was still a loss.