Nashville Predators 2, Carolina Hurricanes 3: Calm, Cool, But An Uncollected Two Points

Despite a strong performance by the Predators, the Carolina Hurricanes exited stage left with the win.

After a disappointing opening night loss to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday, the Nashville Predators took the ice once again at Bridgestone Arena and faced off against last season’s bitter rival, the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Predators changed up the roster a bit, slotting Rocco Grimaldi in for Philip Tomasino and Mark Borowiecki in for defenseman Ben Harpur. Juuse Saros took his place between the pipes for Nashville, while new Hurricane goalie Frederik Andersen started for the Hurricanes. Could the Predators tighten up their game and channel their emotions into a win against a newer nemesis?

Period One

The Predators’ top line of Forsberg, Duchene, and Johansen started the game with Josi and Carrier the first defensive pair on the ice. Carrier took the first shot of the game but didn’t connect with the back of the net. Juuse Saros quickly stymied the first two attempts by the Hurricanes as the teams settled in

The Predators headed to the power play after Jordan Martinook high sticked Nick Cousins at 2:29. The Predators struggled to enter the zone and set up against a wall of Canes at the blue line, and the power play expired without much offensive threat from the gold jerseys.

The Hurricanes tallied the first goal of the game as Jesper Fast sailed into the zone and sent the puck past Juuse Saros at 6:18. The Predators had a good look as Nick Cousins took a mostly open slot shot, but Andersen contained the open shot.

The Predators gifted Carolina a man advantage after Tanner Jeannot was called for playing a little too rough at 12:00. Barely into the Canes power play, Philippe Myers was called for a hook and the Hurricanes had a two-man advantage. Ekholm, Carrier, and Granlund played absolutely perfect 5 on 3 defense, and Jeannot and Myers were able to exit the sin bin (albeit eight seconds late for Jeannot, due to confusion at the box door) with no harm done.

The Predators caught a break as Andrei Svechnikov was called for a slash at 16:54. The power play started off with a shot off the draw, but once the puck was cleared from the zone the Predators again had to work hard to enter the offensive zone. Nashville lost the man advantage when Alexandre Carrier was called for a trip at 18:18. The teams completed a four-on-four, the Canes went up a man, but the period ended with the puck on Philippe Myers’ stick in front of the Canes goal as the buzzer sounded.  Period ended 1-0 Carolina.

Period Two

The Canes began the second period with Carrier’s power play, but the Preds quickly killed the remaining man advantage. Yakov Trenin—clearly having had enough of something—took out two Carolina Hurricanes at either end of the ice on one shift to start the period. The Predators increased their offensive pressure in the first five minutes of the period and played smart defense in front of Saros.

The increased pressure paid off in the neutral zone as Ryan Johansen snatched the puck at the red line, skated it into the zone, outmuscled the defender, and backhanded it past Andersen short side to even the score at 1-1 at 7:54.

Head coach John Hynes modified the defensive pairs midway through the period, putting Fabbro and Josi together, and focused on rotating five D-men and periodically using Borowiecki on the ice.

Tempers flared briefly as Tanner Jeannot leveled Jordan Martinook, but while Martinook took exception to the hit, he immediately reconsidered dropping the gloves against #84. The Predators executed their neutral zone game cleanly in the second period and were able to consistently bring the puck into the offensive zone.

Juuse Saros received a well earned arena “Juuuuse” cheer as he defended the net from Jordan Staal’s two-on-one point-blank shot. Just as the Predators began cycling in the offensive zone, Luke Kunin played a little too rough in front of Andersen and headed to the sin bin at 16:27. The Canes occupied the zone, but the Predators played a calm kill and Kunin returned to the game with no harm done.

As the second period wound down, Matt Duchene used his penalty drawing magic to earn a trip call with just :00.7 remaining in the period. The period ended with the score tied 1-1 and the Predators pocketing a power play to start the third period.

Period Three

The Predators iced the puck on their first zone entry try on the period-opening man advantage, and despite returning to the offensive zone the power play produced no goal. The teams returned to five a side, and the Preds maintained their drive towards Andersen and the net. In the first few minutes of the period, several gold jerseys placed shots near but not in the net.

Tempers boiled over after Vincent Trocheck cross-checked Sissons from behind and that spicy Herd line came to Sissons’s defense. Once the crowd was separated, the Predators headed onto the man advantage. A major net-front scrum somehow didn’t result in a goal for Nashville as Andersen stretched, sprawled, and strained in the blue ice to keep the score even.

The teams returned to even strength, and the Predators spent a chunk of time in the defensive zone as Carolina maintained extended zone occupation. The defense remained calm under the pressure, and the ice tilted back and forth through the middle of the period.

Despite Nashville playing with what appeared to be the upper hand, Saros couldn’t snag a two-on-one shot by Andrei Svechnikov at 14:00 and the Canes took a 2-1 lead. The Hurricanes seemed content to tie up the puck and watch time click off the clock as the Predators pushed for a game-tying scoring chance.

Just as soon as Juuse Saros went to the bench, the Canes retrieved puck possession and     Teuvo Teravainen lofted the puck into the empty net to make the game 3-1 at 18:48.

Not content to just let the time run out on another loss, Ekholm sent the puck towards the net and Forsberg’s tip beat Andersen at 19:15.

With :44.7 seconds remaining, the Predators buckled down for a “less than” last minute push to tie the game up, but weren’t able to force overtime and fell 3-2.

Three Big Things:

  1. The Predators played improved hockey, especially in the second and third periods. This game saw many of the frustrating mistakes made during the Kraken game minimized or eliminated, especially in the second and third periods. The Predators navigated the ice efficiently, the overall effort from the team improved exponentially, and the Predators remained in this game until the (literal) end.
  2. The lines gelled well tonight. The top line of Forsberg, Duchene, and Johansen is on the right track, and the Herd line can always be counted on to contribute offensively and defensively. The Cousins-Glass-Grimaldi line showed sparks of chemistry and Kunin-Granlund-Tolvanen had a solid performance as well. While some will second-guess leaving Tomasino out tonight, Head Coach John Hynes has to feel good about the combinations and how they are executed.
  3. Special teams need to be...special. That 5-on-3 penalty kill was textbook defense, but the Predators again have to find a way to make opposing teams pay for their sins. Converting on even one of the four man advantages would have tied this game and earned the Predators at least one point and a shot at two and the win.

The Predators return to Bridgestone again on Tuesday night as they face off against the L.A. Kings and former teammate Viktor Arvidsson.