Nashville Predators 4, Los Angeles Kings 2: Saros outstanding in tense win

The Preds’ #1 guy once again had to be their #1 guy.

The Nashville Predators continued their road trip tonight with a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

It was a rough start for the Preds, as they spent a long first shift hemmed in their own zone, before rallying to push back. Alexandre Carrier had a great chance three minutes in, and although Jonathan Quick was able to make the save, Anze Kopitar took a holding penalty in the process. With Kopitar in the box, Filip Forsberg took advantage, scoring yet another goal halfway through the power play and putting the Preds up 1-0.

Arthur Kaliyev almost got that goal right back for the home team, ringing a shot off the post. The Kings continued to swarm, ringing iron again as well as forcing Juuse Saros to make several sharp saves, before Carrier was called for holding the stick and the Kings went on the power play themselves. A few of the Kings’ chances—some saved by Saros, another a third heart-clenching clang—had the crowd already starting to cheer before they realized there’d been no change in score.

Somehow, the Preds managed to kill the penalty off, and play leveled out. The next several minutes of play were fairly even, until a minute and a half before the period ended Adrian Kempe went straight into Saros—with some help from Matt Benning—and was called for goalie interference. Matt Duchene scored on the first shift of that power play to put the Preds up by two.

Play resumed after intermission, and Matt Luff scored to extend the Preds’ lead to 3-0 a few minutes in. The Preds seemed to be building momentum after that until Carrier allowed himself to be goaded into a holding penalty that gave the Kings’ leading scorer, Kempe, a penalty shot. Saros made the stop, and the Preds continued to push.

Halfway through the period, though, Carrier made what would have been a great offensive play if he hadn’t lost the puck. Dustin Brown collected it, went clear up the ice on a breakaway, and scored. Brown is 37 this season and has never been known for his speed, which makes the unimpeded breakaway even more wince-inducing. This revitalized the Kings, who went back on the attack.

Ryan Johansen seemed to be in distress on the bench, but got a little more time to recover when Brendan Lemieux got up to his usual brand of poor sportsmanship, digging at the puck under Saros after a whistle, and a scuffle broke out. Lemieux and Mark Borowiecki each took a seat in the penalty box for two minutes, and there was some quick end-to-end hockey with good chances for both teams—and good chances against both goalies by a Norris-winning defender on their own team. Johansen was back before the 4-on-4 ended.

Borowiecki and Lemieux clashed again before the period ended, with Lemieux objecting this time to a hit of Borowiecki’s, and both this time took a seat for five minutes. Moments later, Johansen was called for roughing in a scuffle against former teammate Viktor Arvidsson, who remained unpenalized. Tanner Jeannot had a great shorthanded chance before the Kings came in on the attack, and finished up the penalty kill by skating the puck up again.

The Kings managed a last flurry as the period came to an end, and Johansen was called for roughing again with 0.3 seconds remaining.

The Predators were able to successfully kill off that penalty, and then the top line had a great shift where they looked like a real threat to score. After that it was back to the Kings, though, as Saros had to save his way through a storm of chances.

With a little over half the period remaining, Mattias Ekholm took a stick to the face and drew a penalty of his own. The Preds weren’t able to score, and as the penalty expired Eeli Tolvanen was called for hooking as the Kings skater trapped Tolvanen’s stick against his body. This time, the Kings converted, drawing within one as Martin Frk got the puck past Saros.

The Kings continued to press, and Saros continued to fight them off, until with two minutes remaining they went empty-net. Yakov Trenin was able to get the puck in with an assist from Jeannot, extending he Preds’ lead to 4-2. Still the Kings kept coming, pulling Quick again. However, Saros held on for a 46-save win.