Nashville Predators 4, New York Islanders 3: Eeli Tolvanen Tips the Game in Nashville’s Favor

A last second tip-in goal, solid netminding from Rittich, and a hot Herd line earn the Preds two points in NY.

The Nashville Predators left the Motor City with two points Tuesday night and headed to the Big Apple to take on the New York Islanders Thursday. The Islanders came into this game after a Tuesday night win themselves over Ottawa, finally breaking a month long losing streak.

The Predators managed a win Tuesday with a slightly modified roster due to injury and illnesses and were forced to play again tonight without Juuse Saros in net. David Rittich had his first consecutive starts in New York. Mattias Ekholm and Matt Benning returned to the ice after each missing Tuesday. The Islanders started the veteran Semyon Varlamov in net. Which team continued their winning ways in New York?

Period One

The Islanders threatened almost immediately with a slot shot handled without issue by Rittich. The Predators answered with their first shot on net thanks to Yakov Trenin, but it was pushed aside by Varlamov. The Islanders wearied five Predators and Rittich with extended offensive pressure, but the guys in gold held fast and were finally able to clear the zone. The Islanders’ sustained pressure didn’t net them a goal then, but Austin Czarnik scored shortly after on a break out at 6:48 for New York.

The play continued back and forth with periodic clogs in the neutral zone. A rough hit by Yakov Trenin caused a ruckus between prizefighters Trenin and Zdeno Chara. Both players were penalized for fighting and Chara was given an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Predators the first power play opportunity of the evening.

Nashville was able to set up well on the man advantage and peppered the net front with shots. Both the first and second units had good looks but couldn’t convert opportunities into goals.

The Predators first score would come at 5v5. Luke Kunin stripped the puck from an unsuspecting Islander in the neutral zone and sent the puck to a hovering Ryan Johansen poised next to Varlamov for the tying goal at 17:28.

Puck battles continued and after snagging possession, Nick Cousins brought the puck into the offensive zone, passed it back to Matt Benning who sent the puck on net. Tanner Jeannot made contact, and Colton Sissons buried the rebound to give the Predators the lead at 18:52.

Period Two

Quick chances for both teams opened the second period. Rittich saved an open slot shot from a streaking Islander, and Forsberg and Duchene had a broken up attempt on a two on one. Those chances were quickly followed up by an interference call against Yakov Trenin, giving New York their first man advantage. It didn’t take long for the Islanders to cash in as Anders Lee tapped in the puck to tie the game 2-2 at 1:56.

Despite back and forth play, the Islanders were able to get the early edge with shots on net in the second period. It took Nashville almost five minutes to register their first shot on goal even though they asserted themselves offensively from the start.

Nashville applied long sustained pressure on the Islanders, wearing down the Islanders and trapping several players out on the ice through three Predators shifts. While puck possession wearied New York, it still didn’t result in a goal for the Preds.

With just 1:49 left, Roman Josi was called for hooking, giving the Islanders another power play for the period. The power play started off with more physical puck battles along the boards, but eventually the Islanders got possession and set up. Nashville was able to defend and the period expired with a few seconds to carry over for the Islanders’ power play into the third.

Period Three

The Predators killed off the few remaining seconds of the power play and the teams returned to five a side quickly. Within the first minute, the Predators saw a bloody Mark Borowiecki head down the tunnel after accidentally taking Trenin’s stick to the face.

The Islanders had a quick and threatening two on one, but Rittich tracked and retrieved the shot. Just a minute later, at 5:08, Rittch would not be as lucky as Noah Dobson sent the puck off Matt Benning’s calf and into the back of the net. The Islanders took the lead 3-2.

Mark Borowiecki returned to the ice only slightly worse for wear and jumped back into the physical game. With just 7:29 remaining in the third, the Herd line charged the net. Tanner Jeannot streaked towards Varlamov, and Yakov Trenin slid the puck beyond Varlamov’s pads to tie the game once again.

Rittich had a big save with less than two minutes in regulation and then again with a minute and a half left. The Islanders clearly didn’t want this game to go to overtime. With good Southern manners, Nashville Predators decided they would be happy to oblige that wish. With 11 seconds remaining in the third period, Eeli Tolvanen tipped a Roman Josi shot past Varlamov, giving the Predators the win.

Three Things:

  1. The Herd Line was made for a game like this - and it showed. With Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin both scoring goals and Tanner Jeannot providing two assists, this was a game tailor made for their style of play.
  2. If you like throwback hockey, this was a game to enjoy.  Although not a high-scoring affair, this was 60 minutes of that “old school” hockey fans sometimes wax poetic over.  Heavy hits, puck battles, back and forth—this game had vintage hockey elements.
  3. Do the right things, and eventually good things will result. Eeli Tolvanen suffered through a frustrating goal drought after the first game of the season. Instead of panicking and pushing too hard, he has continued to play his game, which has benefited the Predators in areas other than his own stats. It has been great to see him get back on the score sheet with impressive tip-in goals.