Predators 4, Sharks 1 - The new guys and a high-danger offense lead Nashville to a season-opening win in Prague

First Period

It’s here! Game 1 of the 2022-23 NHL Season kicked off half a world away in Prague, and the Predators were eager from puck drop to establish their presence, and it wouldn’t take long for the Predators to make their presence felt. After a flurry of opportunities in the offensive zone, Keifer Sherwood tipped a Mattias Ekholm pass to give Nashville their first goal of the young season, assisted by Ekholm and Ryan McDonaugh. Two points for two of the newest additions to the team within a few minutes of starting? I think John Hynes and company will take that.

After the goal, the Predators continued to dominate puck possession, allowing San Jose only short, infrequent trips into the defensive zone. A couple of point shots would reach net, but San Jose was so eager to get ANYTHING on net, none were an issue early for Juuse Saros. On the other side, it was more of the same (Nick Bonino and Matt Benning alert!) - long, extended possession time for all four of Nashville’s lines, including good OZ and DZ work from Cody Glass and Eeli Tolvanen. With 13:36 remaining in the first, however, Nashville’s Ryan Johansen would be called for slashing and send Nashville to their first penalty kill of the game.

The first PK unit was incredibly effective, with San Jose coming up with nothing in the first minute of the penalty, and after another easy Juuse Saros save with just 17 seconds left, the Predators would hold on and kill the penalty and return to even strength - but it wouldn’t take long for San Jose to tie it up at five on five.

Like Roman Josi in the game vs SC Bern, Czech Republic native Tomas Hertl gets a deflection past Juuse Saros with 11:23 remaining to tie the game at 1, and Nashville, who had early control of this game from the start had to regroup and refocus to get back to their game.

Less than a minute later, however, Josi would get called for a high-stick, and once again Nashville was back on the penalty kill - picking up right where they left off last season when they led the league in penalties. The Predators would kill off the penalty again, but not without a flurry of shots against Juuse Saros, who is starting the year allowing more rebounds than we’ve seen previously. Still the Predators escaped, and for the first time in 5 minutes, tried to settle down and get their offense kicking in the Sharks zone.

Nashville would get a few attempts in, banking heavily on creating shots from deflections, but none of them led to sustained possession, and the Preds would enter a commercial timeout with Juuse Saros once again sprawled across the crease, desperately trying to cover the puck and slow down the bleeding from the Preds defense.

It would take some time, as Nashville wouldn’t get their next shot on goal until 5:41 remaining. After the faceoff for James Reimers net coming off the pegs, San Jose would get yet another shot on Juuse Saros, who made a nice glove save to bring another welcome break as the Preds fell further behind in the shot charts, trailing 7 shots on goal to San Jose’s 12. San Jose would add a couple more attempts on Saros with just a few minutes remaining, and Nashville, who had started the game controlling the puck, was still struggling to get anything resembling offense (or defense, for that matter) going. With 3:38 left in the period, Filip Forsberg would finally register Nashville’s 8th shot on goal, but it was easily saved by Reimer. A minute later, Nashville would escape after a couple of promising possessions when Hertl’s shot from the left circle would deflect off the post. Nashville would be able to regain possession immediately with the top line, who would get a couple of shots on goal, starting to build momentum once again. With 1:28 remaining, Nashville had shortened the shot lead to 14-11, mostly due to a strong counterattack by the top line. Play would continue back and forth with little time left in the first, with neither team establishing anything substantial, and the period would come to a close with Trenin on the ice behind Reimer. After one period, the Predators controlled early to get an early lead, but it was San Jose the rest of the way and Nashville would be relieved to get to the locker room with the game still tied.

Second Period

When we last saw the Predators (20 minutes ago), Nashville was digging in their heels trying to keep up with the surprising offense of the San Jose Sharks. Once again, the first shot attempt of the period came from the second line, this time a connection from Johansen to Neiderreiter that the Swiss forward just missed. Some more back and forth action - much like the end of the first period - would continue until young Eeli Tolvanen would find the back of the net for the first time in forever. A great zone entry with possession led to Tolvanen snapping the shot from the left circle by a screening Cole Smith and the Preds would regain the lead once again in the early minutes of a period, now up 2-1.

Less than a minute later, play would be stopped as Mark Borowiecki and San Jose’s Jonah Gadjovich drop the gloves behind the net and both would be sent to the box for fighting. For those counting at home, that’s 9 penalty minutes for the Predators earned in just 22 minutes of game time.

Play would continue with an extended possession by the Sharks in the defensive zone, which ends just seconds later with a delay of game penalty on Keifer Sherwood, sending the Predators to a third penalty kill in 23 minutes. Nashville would once again be able to kill the penalty, but San Jose would keep possession, albeit limited to point shots on a very busy Juuse Saros. Nashville’s first shot of the period (Tolvanen’s goal) would remain the only shot of the second as the teams met in the faceoff dot with 11:50 remaining, Sharks leading the shot count 17-14.

Nashville - stop me if you’ve heard this before - continued to chase possession until 9:48 remaining with a good close-quarters attempt on James Reimer to head into the TV timeout. That would provide somewhat of a spark, as the top unit led by Duchene and Forsberg would add on to their multiple high-quality shots in the crease - again banking on deflections to create offense. That pressure would force former Predator Matt Benning to send the puck over the glass on a clearing attempt, giving Nashville their first power play of the game.

Forsberg and company continued the work they were doing at even-strength, creating a handful of opportunities on an extended shift in the OZ - San Jose wouldn’t be able to stop play until 1:27 into the power play, finally sending Nashville’s top unit to the bench. Alex Carrier, Tanner Jeannot, Cody Glass, Eeli Tolvanen and Nino Niederreiter would get a couple of shots away, but San Jose would eventually kill the penalty. The good news? Nashville pulled even with the Sharks in shots on goal, tied 21-21 with 6:21 remaining in the second. Some unwelcome flashbacks would come flooding back a minute later as a would-be Colton Sissons goal was waved off as the net was already off the pegs. Side note: I believe this is the fifth stoppage for the net coming off so far in this game.

Both teams would struggle to get anything going for the next minute or so until yet another new guy - Nino Niederreiter would take a cross ice pass from Dante Fabbro in one circle on a two on one and Nino buried it past Reimer to the back of the net (which of course, came off the pegs again, but after the goal was scored) and the Predators would take a 3-1 lead with 4:40 remaining in the second.

Nashville was feeling it now, getting another shot on goal before a Ryan Johansen breakaway would lead to a Reimer save, as Joey tried to slow play the shot and waited a bit too long. Nashville wasn’t done, though, as that second line (with 2 goals and 3 points for the game so far) continued to apply pressure to the Sharks. Closing out the period in the last minute of action was the fourth line, who managed to keep possession in the OZ and play keepaway from the Sharks, and that would take the Preds into the 2nd intermission. Two goals in the period put Nashville up 3-1 after two periods.

Third Period

Nashville would establish possession early in the period, once again, but luckily for the Sharks, the Preds were unable to score another goal in the first two minutes of the period. The herd line would pin the Sharks in the neutral zone and play would finally stop three minutes in on a Predators icing call. Moments later, old friend Luke Kunin (FIRST line Luke Kunin) would get called for interference, sending Nashville to their second power play opportunity of the game… at least for 7 seconds. Mikael Granlund was called for cross-checking off the faceoff, eliminating the power play, and giving both teams 1:53 of 4 on 4 time. Nashville continued to maintain possession without much shot volume, and the Predators would kill the penalty (all seven seconds of it) and Jonah Gadjovich would go to the box once again for goaltender interference on Juuse Saros - who still made the save, by the way. (Note: after replay, Roman Josi got away with shoving Gadjovich into the goaltender. Oh well.)

Predators begin the 3rd power play opportunity with a Josi shot blocked by Couture, who laid on the ice for a bit afterwards. Forsberg would get another nice opportunity netfront again that was stopped by Reimer. Nick Bonino would dive to clear the puck with 42 seconds remaining, sending the second power play unit for the Preds out onto the ice. Tolvanen would get yet another shot after carrying the puck into the zone, and after a San Jose clear, the power play would end.

With 10:31 remaining, Nashville gets PP attempt number 4 on a high-stick from Nieto on Mattias Ekholm. As we have seen all game, Filip Forsberg gets another deflected shot on goal early in the power play, but still couldn’t find the back of the net. Both units got in on the action, getting more shots from up close, including a couple of point-blank attempts from Tanner Jeannot. The first unit would get back on the ice, and Duchene and Granlund would combine for three more attempts on Reimer before the penalty was ultimately killed.

San Jose would spend the next few minutes trying to create any type of sustained offense to get back in the game - even pulling back ahead in the shot count (31-29 San Jose) with 4 minutes remaining. Thankfully, the Nashville defense would stand and keep everything outside, before the fourth line would get a couple shots on Reimer before played stopped at 3:42 remaining.

Each of Nashville’s lines would spend the next two minutes keeping the attack on James Reimer, who finally left his net with 1:45 remaining in the game in an attempt to score twice and tie this game. San Jose would barely touch the puck after that, and finally Mattias Ekholm fed Granlund who bypassed an easy empty net goal to make a two foot pass to Matt Duchene, who logs his first goal of the season with 25.6 seconds left. The Sharks, reeling, would just let time run out, and Nashville would win the first game of the Global Series double-header, starting the season 1-0-0 with a 4-1 Predators victory.

Three Stars of the Game

First Star: F Kiefer Sherwood - 1 goal, 1 assist and 2 takeaways in 10:32

Second Star: F Tomas Hertl -  1 goal, 2 shots on goal in 21:01

Third Star: F Eeli Tolvanen - 1 goal (game-winner), 3 shots on goal, 2 hits, 2 blocks

Goal Highlights