Nashville Predators 3, Calgary Flames 2 (SO): Staying Alive

The Predators needed a win in Calgary tonight to stay in the playoff race, and the kids fought for the two points until the very end.

The Nashville Predators hit the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome clinging to the dimmest flicker of playoff hope. Sitting two points behind tonight's opponent–the Calgary Flames–and five points back from the last wildcard slot, the Predators need both a win, and the Winnipeg Jets to stumble in the final stretch, to make the playoffs.

As game time arrived, the urgency of this game ramped up. Just moments after puck drop, the Winnipeg Jets defeated the San Jose sharks 6-2. With that result, the loser of the Preds v. Flames will be eliminated from the playoffs while the winner will survive for at least one more day.

But the fact that this team, missing nearly all its veteran star talent, is even sniffing at the edge of the playoff picture is a surprising feat. Led by Vezina contender Juuse Saros, the kids have shown their tenacity and an offensive touch, if not yet consistency of play on the road. Tonight the Preds got a boost from the return of Juuso Parssinen, who has been out with injury for the last 23 games.

The First Period

Both teams came out with energy, as the situation demanded. An early scramble in front of Saros was followed shortly with a prime chance for Egor Afanasyev, who was foiled by Jacob Markstrom's outstretched glove.

As has been the case of late, the Preds struggled to exit their own zone and to establish themselves in the offensive zone. However, they had several good chances early, despite getting outshot.

The chippiness was evident early as Jonathan Huberdeau and Dante Fabbro scuffled after the whistle in front of Saros.

With just under 6 minutes gone, Afanasyev put the puck deep into the offensive zone. With Markstrom heading behind the net to play the puck, Jankowski managed to force a misplay, passing the puck back out to Afanasyev who scored his career first NHL goal, putting the Preds up 1-0.

Shortly after, the Flames took the first penalty of the game. The Preds used the two-minute power play as an opportunity to double their shots on goal to that pont, but despite a lot of good looks, the closest they came to scoring was ringing one off the post.

Shortly after, Andrew Mangiapane collided with a falling Yakov Trenin, putting the Flames on their first power play of the game. Despite several good chances, the Preds--and Juuse Saros--stood tall, holding onto their one goal lead.

With 4 minutes left in the period, Cody Glass dove for a puck in the low slot, but he was thwarted by the outstretched pad of Markstrom. Shortly thereafter, the Flames took another penalty, giving the Preds their second power play. The Preds had some trouble getting set up this time, but had another close call, hitting the post once again. Two power plays, two posts, but no power play goals.

Despite a close call for the Preds in the closing seconds of the period, Saros stood tall, keeping the Predators up 1-0 as they headed to the locker room.

The Second Period

The Flames began the second period with urgency, getting several great opportunities in the first two minutes of the period, and testing Juuse Saros. But Dylan Dube turned the tables when he took a high sticking penalty against Afansayev on a Preds defensive zone faceoff shortly thereafter.

This time, the Flames' pressure made it difficult for the Preds to get organized in the offensive zone. Despite finally getting set up in the last half of the power play, the Preds again failed to score. After the power play was over, the Preds continued to hold the offensive zone, forcing the Flames to ice the puck. On the ensuing faceoff, Colton Sissons got an excellent chance in front of the net, but could not convert.

With 14:27 remaining in the game, the Preds got their fourth power play of the game, when Jonathan Huberdeau retaliated against Colton Sissons. After killing off that penalty, the Flames finally converted, with Huberdeau, straight from the box, screening Saros on the play. 1-1.

The Predators continued to get chances, but were unable to convert. Ryan McDonagh took a high-sticking penalty and went to the box nearly halfway through the period. The Flames held the Predators in their defensive zone for almost the entirety of the two minutes, but could not convert on their opportunities.

After that, the Flames cranked up the intesity of the game, pushing the Predators defenders and Saros. With just over two minutes left in the period, Zach Sanford took a slashing penalty, giving the Flames yet another power play. Having killed that off, the Preds got a power play of their own with only 22 seconds remaining in the period. That did not give them enough time to get set up before the period expired.

Overall, the Preds were outplayed this period but they managed to hold onto the tie and entered the dressing room with some time on the man advantage to begin the next period.

The Third Period

The Preds began the pivotal third period on the power play, but it was the Flames that had the first scoring chances. Even after the Preds got set up, the Flames managed a fantastic opportunity on a shorthanded breakaway. Tyson Barrie took a phantom hooking penalty on that play, resulting in 30 seconds of 4 on 4 before the Flames got a power play of their own.

Despite killing off the penalty, the Flames seemed to have gained momentum, until Zach Sanford knocked in a puck that Cody Glass had snuck in behind Markstrom from behind the net. 2-1 Predators.

That goal seemed to have shifted the Predators mentality. Pressing, they had a number of good opportunities as the clock slowly ticked down. But the relentless Flames capitalized off of a Preds turnover, getting the puck past Saros on a cross-ice passing play. 2-2.

With only a short time left in the game, the Preds were in urgent need of a boost, which seemed to have come by way of another power play drawn by Philip Thomasino, who took a high stick from the Flames' Blake Coleman. However, the Preds failed to get truly set up against the Flames' impressive penatly kill. And the best opportunity of the two minutes was a shorthanded attempt stopped by Saros.

With 1:32 remaining, Saros made a stunning save on a Huberdeau shot to keep the game tied. And the Preds ended the period desperately scrambling in their own zone. But the loser point means nothing this time. Both teams need two, so to overtime we go.


Perhaps a wide-open 3-on-3 overtime was the most appropriate way to end this pivotal game, with staggering chances at both ends. But the goalies held off the skaters and Saros in particular made several incredible saves. In the end, it wouldn't end here. To the shootout we go.


Round 1

Calgary shot first, putting Jonathan Huberdeau, who was noticeable all game up first. Coming in slow, he repeatedly faked, beating Saros to give the Flames an early advantage. 0-1

Philip Tomanino was the Preds' counter, but he lost the puck a bit before hitting the post. 0-1

Round 2

Nazem Kadri was up next, but Saros stopped him to keep it at 0-1.

Luke Evangelista tried to tie things up again for the Preds, but while he got the puck behind Markstrom, it was not a goal. 0-1.

Round 3

Saros kept things going by stopping Nick Richie. 0-1.

Finally, Cody Glass was up and managed to get the puck into the net, keeping the shootout going. 1-1.

Round 4

Backlund bobbled the puck a bit and was stopped by Saros. 1-1.

Tommy Novak, the hero of the late season, put the puck over Markstrom's right pad, winning the shootout 2-1 and keeping the Predators' postseason hopes alive for one more day.