By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators went to Toronto in search of their first regulation win since October 24th. Toronto, meanwhile, were losers of 8 straight games and were looking to snap out of their skid. On the strength of four power play goals, Toronto could come out on top of this one 5-4.
With almost a healthy roster, still missing Matthew Lombardi from the lineup, the Predators maintained pressure early on the Maple Leafs and jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.
At 8:03 into the first period, Ryan Suter dumped the puck into the offensive zone towards the net, David Legwand was able to got a hold of it in front of the net and pass it over to JP Dumont, who then tipped the puck into an empty net, with Leafs goalie J.S. Giguerre out of position. Both Legwand and Dumont were behind the Toronto blueliners.
Jordin Tootoo scored only three minutes later, again on a solid pass by David Legwand onto the stick of Tootoo. At this point in the game, Toronto took their time out. When play resumed, it only took 10 seconds for Nashville to score again. Mikhail Grabovski tried to pass the puck across the crease by it went right to Martin Erat, who had a shot at point blank range directly in front of JS Giguere, no defenders in sight for the Maple Leafs.
The Predators 3-0 lead was established with 8:07 left to play in the first.
Nashville had an opportunity to widen the lead to 4-0 when Steve Sullivan had a breakaway, but he was stopped by Giguere. Sullivan’s inability to put the game even farther from the Leafs reach will be a defining moment for Nashville Tuesday night.
Toronto would not go to the dressing room empty handed. With only 30 seconds left to play in the first period Luke Schenn absolutely undressed JP Dumont and put the puck behind Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot.
If the first period can be characterized by Nashville goals and a display of offense the Predators have a hard time finding on some nights, the second period can be characterized by Nashville penalties and the Leafs power play tallies that would ensue.
The onslaught of penalties for Nashville began at 3:32 into the second period. Francis Bouillon was called for slashing. Marcel Goc scored for Nashville shorthanded on a breakaway, making it 4-1 Predators. It was the first time this season that the Leafs gave up a shorthanded goal and the first shorthanded goal for Nashville.
With 17 seconds before the Bouillon penalty was over, the Predators were called for slashing. With Ryan Suter headed to the box for his slash on Tyler Bozak, the Leafs would have 17 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage.
Only 4 seconds after the 2-man advantage expired, Kevin Klein was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass in the defending zone. The Leafs had another 1:22 minutes of 5-on-3 action and they would not be denied. Kris Versteeg made it a 4-2 game.
The goal allowed Ryan Suter to come out of the box. Less than a minute later, Suter would be sent back to the sin bin for hooking. The Leafs were right back on the power play with another 2-man advantage. Kris Versteeg scored again to make it a 4-3 game.
Pekka Rinne allowed in two 5-on-3 goals within a span of 59 seconds. Not entirely the Finnish goaltenders blame, the Nashville players weren’t helping their cause as they would continue to lack the discipline required to maintain a lead, something Nashville has been unable to do this season.
With the Preds trying to cling to a 1 goal lead, Patric Hornqvist was called for goaltender interference at 13:12 of the middle frame. Mikhail Gabrovski scored a goal down low behind the defense, skating in alone and dekes Rinne, scoring on the backhand with a little over 5 minutes left to play in the second period.
Nashville took a time out to try to calm things down after watching a 4-1 lead become a tied game.
After the time out, instead of gaining composure and slowing the game down, Nashville took another penalty. This time Joel Ward was sent to the box for hooking at 16:28. Nikolai Kulemin scored for the Leafs, giving them the 5-4 lead.
There was no scoring in the third period by either team.
The Leafs scored 4 power play goals in the second period. It was the most power play goals Nashville has ever allowed in one period of play. Incidentally, it is the first time since 2004 that the Predators allowed Toronto to score on the power play.
During a tv time out, Giguere left the net limping. Jonas Gustavsson came into the game in relief of Giguere. As Gustavsson came in cold, an excellent opportunity for a team to take advantage of a goalie who might not be warmed up sufficiently, Nashville wouldn’t play in the offensive zone as they were called for their 7th penalty of the game. Jerred Smithson was called for slashing.
Nashville would have two power play opportunities (to Toronto’s 8) and would not be able to tie the game, losing 5-4 in regulation.
The next game for the Predators is on Thursday night when they play the top team in the North East Division, the Montreal Canadiens. Game time is 6pm CT.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is Wednesday, November 24th when the Preds take on the St. Louis Blues for the third and final time at Bridgestone Arena. The game is going to be televised nationally on Versus. You do not want to miss it!