Nashville Predators 3, Colorado Avalanche 7: Errors cost struggling Preds another game

Plus, is it really a Nashville Predators playoff series if there isn’t at least one deeply questionable (no) goal?

The Nashville Predators took on the Colorado Avalanche this afternoon at home, hoping to turn the series around. They’d shaken up the forward lines, including calling Cody Glass up from Milwaukee, as well as making some tweaks on defense.

The Preds got out to a better start than they had the previous two games, settling into the Avs’ zone early and getting multiple shots at Darcy Kuemper; Connor Ingram, finally getting an interval of having the lighter workload of the goalies on the ice, still made a sharp save when he was first tested.

A post from Matt Duchene and a quick save by Kuemper on Luke Kunin brought us to the first TV timeout. A revitalized Avalanche returned from the break, with Nazem Kadri adding a fantastic chance of his own and Ingram meeting him with the save. Unfortunately, the Avs would get a chance to build more momentum, as Eeli Tolvanen tripped Darren Helm.

Although the Preds’ penalty killers looked good early, and were able to get a few clears, Devon Toews scored to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the point. It fueled them, and not the Predators, as Avs continued to press the attack.

A good defensive play and a solid offensive attempt from Filip Forsberg set up a brief possession that drew a penalty from Kadri. The Preds got a chance of their own on the power play, but were once again unable to accomplish anything with it, and the Avalanche attacked again as Kadri emerged from the box.

It was the Avalanche’s turn on the power play next, as Kunin high-sticked Josh Manson. For whatever reason, the Preds’ penalty killers opted to leave Nathan MacKinnon right in front of Ingram, and he wasted no time in capitalizing on that opportunity to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.

With only minutes left in the period, and the Avalanche seeming to have all the momentum, Matt Duchene went on the counterattack, heading all the way up the ice and scoring to cut the Avs’ lead to 2-1. The arena was revitalized, and the Predators seemed to get a little more jump in their step too.

In the final minute of the period, the blade of Ryan Johansen’s stick got caught in the eyehole of Kuemper’s mask, going through the wires, as Johansen and MacKinnon jostled for position behind the play. Kuemper immediately left the crease in distress, eventually making it off the ice and down to the locker room, as players and coaches on both benches watched with concern.

Pavel Francouz, coming in cold in relief, made a huge save on Mattias Ekholm with one second left in the period to hold the Avs’ lead heading into intermission.

While I hope that Kuemper is all right and is able to return quickly, Francouz was still in net for the Avalanche after intermission, and the Avs continued to play the aggressive offense that has made their goalies’ lives so easy this series. A giveaway from Tanner Jeannot forced Ingram to make an in-close save on MacKinnon, and either Jeannot or Alexandre Carrier quickly got the rebound out of danger, letting the Preds exhale.

Manson was called early for interference, sending the Preds back to the power play. This time, it paid off, as Eeli Tolvanen scored to tie the game 2-2. The Predators, revitalized, began to build some sustained pressure against the Avalanche. Yakov Trenin rang iron, almost giving the Preds their first lead of the series, but right after that Jeremy Lauzon took a penalty.

Gabe Landeskog scored on the power play to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead, with all of their goals coming on the power play. Ingram made the initial save after the Preds failed to clear, but Landeskog got his own rebound: 3-2 Avs.

The Predators got a chance to respond when Andre Burakovsky, who’d drawn that penalty, took one of his own. A good power play from the Preds, with some good passing and puck movement, let Roman Josi score to tie the game 3-3.

Almost immediately, Landeskog responded with another goal to regain the lead. The Preds challenged for goalie interference, as Artturi Lehkonen certainly seemed to have skated into Ingram and preventing him from making the save, but the goal stood, and the Avalanche got a power play out of the failed challenge.

The comedy of errors continued as Ingram tried to play the puck behind the net on the penalty kill and inadvertently passed it out front to Kadri, who wasted no time in putting it in the net and making it 5-3 Avs.

As if that wasn’t enough, Forsberg went so far out of his way to lay a massive hit on Logan O’Connor—before falling on top of O’Connor—that he was called for charging, giving the Avalanche (already 4-for-4 on the power play) another opportunity. This time, the Predators actually managed to kill the penalty, with some help from the left post, and as Forsberg came out of the box they went on the counterattack.

Francouz’s save set the Avs up for another attack of their own, and the teams traded rapid-fire chances through the remaining minute of the period. The same was true of the start of the third, as both Ingram and Francouz had to make saves in quick succession.

As the period wound on, the Avalanche got set up in the offensive zone. A brief push back from the Predators stalled out when an awful line change left Ingram all alone to fail to make a save on Toews: 6-3 Avalanche, with mercifully only about half a period to go.

Colton Sissons tried to respond, but Francouz was able to make the save. With around four and a half minutes remaining, John Hynes pulled Ingram for the extra attacker. This was honestly questionable for a few reasons—not enough time to reliably score multiple goals, even if the Preds hadn’t struggled to both generate PP offense and prevent SH chances this series—but was also the only choice Hynes could have made that wasn’t just giving up.

Valeri Nichushkin scored into the empty net with 2:46 remaining to make it 7-3 Avs.