After a miraculous 2-1 win against the best team in the NHL–the now Presidents’ Trophy-winning Boston Bruins–the Nashville Predators (37-29-8) headed to Pittsburgh to face off against the Penguins on the second and final stop of their short road trip.
While both teams are still fighting for their playoff hopes, Nashville sits just outside the wild card in the Western Conference–a surprise for any observer who may have seen the trade deadline signaling a rebuild. On the other side is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who, among other moves to make today’s roster better, traded a second-round pick to Nashville in exchange for Mikael Granlund, who has disappointed Penguins fans with very little production in his 14 games with the club.
While the Predators usually start slow, with the majority of their games starting with shots on goal of 10 or less in the first period, that was not the case tonight. Both teams came out firing, putting a heavy workload on Nashville’s Juuse Saros and Pittsburgh Tristan Jarry. The teams combined for 53 shot attempts in the opening frame, with both teams converting those attempts into shots on goal at just over 50%. The Penguins had 16 shots to the Predators’ 12, and both teams were getting high-quality chances on the opposing goaltenders.
Despite the talent disparity on the ice, Juuse Saros was able to keep the game scoreless despite Pittsburgh threatening on several occasions. Heading into the second period, however, Nashville just couldn’t keep up with Pittsburgh, registering just SIX shot attempts (only five were shots on goal). The Penguins took full advantage of a dearth of offense from the Preds, registering yet another 30 shot attempts–a staggering nine of which with high-danger.
Facing those nine high-danger chances that period, Saros could not remain perfect as Brian Dumoloun fired a shot towards the net that Jason Zucker was able to deflect into the net at 14:15, and the home team finally had a goal and the lead at 1-0.
The third period provided a little hope for the Predators, as they were able to maintain a handful of offensive possessions, and despite losing Jeremy Lauzon for much of the third period, Nashville had gathered enough momentum to threaten to tie the game before Mikael Granlund drew a roughing penalty on Cal Foote. Just eight seconds later, Jake Guentzel scored with the man advantage, sending the game to 2-0–and the Predators would fail to register anything over the final seven minutes as they headed home to Nashville with the loss.
Despite leaving PPG Arena with no points, it was yet another incredible game for Juuse Saros, who saved 3.5 goals above expected in the contest. While Nashville’s playoff window is rapidly slamming shut, the chase for Saros’ first Vezina Trophy continues to heat up.
Three Stars of the Game
⭐⭐⭐ Pittsburgh F Jake Guentzel
⭐⭐ Pittsburgh F Jason Zucker
⭐Pittsburgh G Tristan Jarry.
Beyond the Scoreboard
Team and Goaltender Game Metrics
Nashville Predators Individual Statistics – 5 on 5
Pittsburgh Penguins Individual Statistics – 5 on 5
Forward Lines – Adjusted 5 on 5
On-Ice Expected Goal Rates (per 60 min) – 5 on 5