Nashville Predators: Predators Gamble Late But Are Blanked By Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 2: Kevin Fiala #22 of the Nashville Predators and Erik Haula #56 of the Vegas Golden Knights skate to the puck during the game at T-Mobile Arena on January 2, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 2: Kevin Fiala #22 of the Nashville Predators and Erik Haula #56 of the Vegas Golden Knights skate to the puck during the game at T-Mobile Arena on January 2, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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A game full of excitement and scoring chances ends with the Nashville Predators being stymied by the high-powered Vegas Golden Knights.

This game had so much energy right from the initial puck drop. People make jokes all the time about how hockey isn’t meaningful until late in the season. Those types of people had no argument in this matchup between Western Conference elites. The Nashville Predators now know very well one of the teams in their way.

The sky isn’t falling after this loss for the Nashville Predators. They were up against an elite team.  An expansion team like no league has ever seen. They’re fun to watch, high octane and methodical. You can’t rest on them, and they can pounce on you quickly. There’s no reason to panic or overthink this loss as a Predators fan. They got outplayed by a legit contender, simple as that. Here’s how it played out.

1st Period

The Nashville Predators were coming off of a back-to-back split with Minnesota, which isn’t a bad result. They’re staying in the hunt for the division title, but facing Vegas we knew would be challenging. Vegas had a 11-1-1 month of December and has lost just three of 19 home games coming in. The crowd was electric and very impressive.

Both teams traded scoring chances in the first period, but the Golden Knights had more quality opportunities. Sharpness from Pekka Rinne was required to keep this game knotted at zero. This trend is becoming all too familiar. Rinne is having to stand on his head to keep games close early on.

The Predators had some quality scoring chances of their own, including a couple from Nick Bonino. He just couldn’t cash in, and you have to do that against quality teams like Vegas. The total shots on goal heavily favored Vegas at 15-4, but that number is a little misleading. The Predators had their chances as well. A very fun opening period with a ton of Predators fan in attendance to represent on the road. The Golden Knights fans were just as impressive and kept the game like a playoff atmosphere.

Perhaps the biggest plus is no penalties for the Predators in the first period. We need more of that going forward.

2nd Period

I have to say the Predators looked like they were taking over the game early on in the second period. A lot of offensive pressure and momentum was shifting to the Predators. Again, you have to take advantage of your opportunities and they did not.

A breakaway scoring attempt by Roman Josi nearly gave the Predators the coveted first goal. He made a great steal of the puck, but Vegas defended it even better. Their team defense is huge factor in the way this game unfolds.

Finally, the Predators take their first penalty a little over halfway through the second period. It’s a costly one, for too many men on the ice, that lead to the Golden Knights breaking the 0-0 draw. It took longer than normal, but bad penalties hurts the Predators.

Another quick goal from Vegas essentially buries this game. Even though the Predators were still applying some pressure, all of the momentum to a very good team belonged to the Golden Knights behind a great crowd.

3rd Period

I like how the Predators played in the final period. They kept the game within reach at a two-goal deficit and settled down. We’ve seen the Nashville Predators come back from 2-0 deficits going into the third period before. However, this Vegas team plays with so much confidence that you know you can’t fall behind.

The Nashville Predators put up a respectable effort and gamble a bit by pulling Rinne with under six minutes to go on the power play. It didn’t pay off as the Vegas penalty kill smothered a Predators power play that was ranked third in the NHL coming in.

Tip your cap to the Golden Knights. They’re a fun group that should be drawing interest outside of diehard hockey fans, and no longer a cute story. They’re the real deal and will be a tough out in the playoffs for anyone. Scott Hartnell seems to agree, as he told Lyndsay Rowley of Fox Sports Tennessee:

Chad’s Three Stars

Third Star: Pekka Rinne

You can’t pin this loss on Pekka Rinne. The Golden Knights outplayed the Predators, plain and simple. Rinne kept it within reach until the empty net goal. He finished with 28 saves on 30 shots faced against who I believe has become a Cup contender.

Second Star: Reilly Smith

Reilly Smith breaks the tie in a game that was going back and forth. I even thought the Predators were starting to steal the momentum. However, Smith gets the Vegas crowd going crazy, and the rest is history. The Golden Knights can beat you from so many directions.

First Star: Marc-Andre Fleury

An outstanding showing from the veteran. The Predators had their share of quality looks, but Fleury was unfazed. He gets the shutout, in just his tenth game of the season, to bury the Predators. His 29 saves powers the Golden Knights to a victory that might make them the team to beat in the West.

Onto the next one

The next game will be in Arizona on Thursday at 8PM Central time. It will also be on Fox Sports TN and 102.5 The Game.

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