The Nashville Predators faced yet another Eastern Conference opponent on Saturday. The shaky start forced Predators to rally, but came up short.
It was an early start for hockey, and it took awhile for the Nashville Predators to wake up. The matinée game versus the New York Rangers was filled with sloppy play and missed chances early on. Reactions to the puck movement were sluggish on defense, while offense appeared to need another pot of coffee.
After nearly 35 minutes of play, the Predators found their legs and pushed the Rangers’ side of the ice. In the end, it was enough to pull off yet another comeback win.
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The early start time seemed to surprise most Predators players. A penalty-filled first period found the Rangers taking a two goal lead after twenty minutes. Nine penalties in all were called, giving both teams chances.
As the puck flew around the ice, the Rangers were faster to gain possession. Kevin Hayes used his speed to chase down a puck, even as Alexei Emelin attempted to swat it away. Hayes shot was blocked by starting goalie Juuse Saros. However, two Predators simply watched the rebound and Jesper Fast slammed it passed the Predators goalie.
The second goal showed further lack of awareness on for the Predators’ defense. While on a powerplay, the Rangers worked the puck into a corner. Three players for Nashville followed the puck, leaving Ryan Johansen to cover two players. When it appeared Emelin was going to push the puck free, Johansen started down the ice. Emelin missed, and the puck was sent to a wide open Chris Kreider. He snapped home a wrister, putting the Predators in a 2-0 hole.
The first half of the second period gave us more of what we saw in the first. Sloppy puck movement and slow skates. However, the Predators found their first goal off the game only 1:44 into the period. Viktor Arvidsson and Johansen fought for a puck along the wall, finally knocking it to open ice. Mattias Ekholm gobbled up the loose puck and fired it passed Henrik Lundqvist.
Play of the game continued to be shaky, with mental lapses for both teams. Neither was able to capitalize on their chances for a while. The Rangers then used their speed again to breakaway from the Predators defense. Hayes skated down the right side, passed Matt Irwin, then scooping the puck into the net. Irwin just failed to get into position to play the speed of Hayes.
Soon, however, the Predators woke up. The ice opened up and they started to push the puck into the offensive zone. Johansen found his way to the puck, skating behind the Rangers’ net. He patiently moved around then found Roman Josi. His shot was redirected by Filip Forsberg, and the puck found its way behind Lundqvist. The Predators were now down 3-2 at the end of the second period.
Trailing starting the period, the Predators were on the attack early and often. They attacked the net with gusto, putting pressure on Lundqvist. With two minutes to go, the Predators pulled Saros from the net. However, the Rangers cleared the puck with 38 seconds left, and it found the empty net. The final goal finished the game, and the Rangers won 4-2.
For the game, the Predators outshot the Rangers 25-15, keeping New York to just three shots in the third.
Stars of the Game
Filip Forsberg: Continuing his great play, Forsberg finished the game with a goal and an assist, giving him a team leading 11 points this season.
Kevin Hayes: The speed of Hayes put the Rangers ahead and kept them in the game. Both his goal and assist proved crucial.
Mattias Ekholm: More than just scoring the first goal of the game, Ekholm used physical play in the third period to hold possession.
The Predators return to Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night, hosting the Calgary Flames. A win would help the Predators stay undefeated at home, but the Flames are 3-1-0 on the road. Puck drop is at 7pm Central, and will be on Fox Sports-Tennessee.