The Nashville Predators put up a fight, but it wasn’t enough to top James Neal and the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Nashville Predators’ first meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights contained more interesting storylines than your typical first-ever meeting between teams. PK Subban met his brother, Vegas goalie Malcolm. James Neal returned to Bridgestone Arena for the first time since last year’s Stanley Cup Final. It took some time, but the game eventually lived up to the hype.
Associate Coach Kevin McCarthy was honored prior to the game for coaching 1500 NHL games. To give you an idea of how many that is, he started with the Hartford Whalers. The fourth line ices the puck & gives the Knights a chance down low. James Neal‘s shooting early & often because he’s James Neal. Craig Smith high-sticks his way to the penalty box 7:31 into the game. That’s when we get the Neal tribute video.
It doesn’t take long for William Karlsson to find the back of the net. A good rush by Vegas makes it 0-1. Nate Schmidt & Alex Tuch get assists. The Nashville Predators go on the offensive afterwards. Malcolm Subban making good plays down low. Karlsson with another good shot that Pekka Rinne gloves. David Perron goes to the box for a hold with 11:48 left in the 1st. It goes to 5 on 3 for 48 seconds when Kevin Fiala gets tripped by Brayden McNabb behind the net. Karlsson blocks a PK Subban slap shot. The Predators can’t score on the 5 on 3, and come up empty on the overall sequence. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Smith was close on a goal there but Malcolm gets it covered up. The clock expires & the Predators are down one after one. Nashville leads in shots 16-10, but the score that matters is 1-0 Vegas.
The Nashville Predators come out of the locker room looking to change that score & have one of their typical second period performances, but Malcolm is on point. You have to credit Vegas’s defensive effort as well. Nick Bonino has a real good chance but Malcolm makes the save. Anthony Bitetto gets called for a cross-check with 10:16 left in the second & Vegas gets another PP chance. Roman Josi making some big blocks down by the net. Viktor Arvidsson drives down for a short-handed goal but it’s no dice. After some back & forth action, James Neal gets a pass & puts it in the back of the net to make it 2-0 with 5:23 left in the 2nd. That was pretty.
Since that happened, you knew Calle Jarnkrok wouldn’t be too far behind with a goal of his own to make it 2-1. Pontus Aberg & Filip Forsberg helped. Forsberg continues his streak of having a point in every single Predators home game this season.
He nearly gets another one & Smashville is awoken. Kyle Turris & friends are all over Malcolm. After 35 minutes or so of lackadaisical play, the Predators are doing things. Unfortunately, that “doing things” includes Kevin Fiala allegedly high-sticking Neal at the end of the period, so Vegas will be on the PP to start the third period.
We have an injury to a linesman during the Vegas power play, as one of the Golden Knights slid into his leg. He’s ok! The Predators kill off that PP and get one of their own when Colin Miller high-sticks with 17:25 left. Unfortunately Vegas maintains possession during most of it. Watching Another referee gets wiped out in the corner. Arvidsson ties it up as the puck goes from Turris to Fiala to a one-footed Viktor right in front of the net! We get a challenge on this as Malcolm Subban may have been interfered with. The referees confirm after some time, and we have a tie game!
More high-sticking? This time it’s Cody Eakin getting whistled. Pontus Aberg showing some nice physicality. The power play passes without much of note, then Karlsson & PK Subban both go to the box. Refs think Subban dived, but he highly disagrees. Both teams make moves but can’t get anything done.
Arvidsson makes a nice pass to Nick Bonino, who puts it past Malcolm! The Nashville Predators take their first lead of the evening at 3-2 with just over five minutes left!
Kevin Fiala puts it out of play in desperation on a Vegas push and heads to the box for a Vegas PP. A Riley Smith attempt is denied by Pekka. The PP is killed but the Knights are still pushing. A Neal shot goes right into Pekka Rinne! Malcolm heads to the bench & it’s empty net time with 1:34 left. A big ol’ scrum in the front of the net ends up with Pekka on top of the puck & people losing their helmets behind the net. It’s craziness right now in Nashville, with Vegas pulling out all stops to tie. They get it done with 39 seconds left. Erik Haula knocks it off of Roman Josi‘s stick to tie it at 3. Extra hockey is up next.
This game got off to a slow start but everybody took it up a notch in the third. All in all, we probably deserve an overtime here.
We all worry about the Nashville Predators in overtime, and adding to the stress is Vegas’s stellar OT record. Jarnkrok almost had a great opportunity on a breakaway, but he didn’t quite get far ahead enough & Malcolm saw it coming. Neal slides into the net but that doesn’t count as a goal. Karlsson nearly gets one by Pekka but no. Fiala is denied. Vegas makes one more try & Pekka makes the deflection!
Now we head to the shootout. Kyle Turris leads off for Nashville and misses the net. James Neal misses the net for Vegas. Pekka saw it coming. Kevin Fiala is stopped short by Malcolm Subban. Alex Tuch bounces one off Pekka’s pads. Filip Forsberg steps up & is denied by Malcolm’s toe. David Perron‘s backhand is blocked. Craig Smith is up next & hits the post. Erik Haula is denied. Here comes Viktor Arvidsson, he’s done everything tonight but he can’t get it in there. William Karlsson leads the Knights in goals, but he can’t lead the puck past Rinne. Nick Bonino’s shot is blocked. Reilly Smith ends the shootout for Vegas in Round 6.
Steve’s Stars of the Game
Third Star: Malcolm Subban
He allowed three goals, but I’d still say Malcolm Subban did a fantastic job in net for the Golden Knights with forty-one saves. He was great most of the evening & won the first Battle of the Subbans. If he keeps this up he won’t be in his brother’s shadow too much longer.
Second Star: James Neal
Don’t worry, Calle Jarnkrok fans. Your guy scored a goal too, a dramatic answer to Neal’s, in fact. But James Neal was all over the place tonight creating havoc on behalf of the Golden Knights on both sides of the ice. It’s tempting to give a star to the guy that finally ended the shootout, but Neal did more overall to earn mention tonight.
First Star: Viktor Arvidsson
Some “Arvi Hustle” led to the goal that tied the game at two, and an assist on what could have been the game winner from Nick Bonino. Whenever the Nashville Predators need a spark, Viktor Arvidsson is more than ready to provide it. He nearly powered the Predators to a win in a game that they led for about four & a half minutes. He has some new linemates now that Ryan Johansen is on IR, but it didn’t seem to affect him too much tonight.
The Nashville Predators get to take a few days off now, but a trip to Western Canada is next on the agenda. The Vancouver Canucks will host the Predators on Wednesday night at 9:00 PM CT/10:00 PM ET. Fox Sports Tennessee will begin coverage 30 minutes prior, and you can listen on 102.5 The Game if you lack a way to view the game.