Nashville Predators Buried By Colorado Avalanche in Thriller

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 27: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators makes a glove save against Matt Calvert #11 of the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on November 27, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 27: Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators makes a glove save against Matt Calvert #11 of the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena on November 27, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Perhaps the biggest challenger to the Nashville Predators in the division is the Colorado Avalanche, who steals a win at Bridgestone Arena.

It’s never fun to see the Nashville Predators end up on the losing end, but these two teams treated hockey fans to a thrilling, back-and-forth game at Bridgestone Arena. Unfortunately, Colorado gets some revenge after getting blanked by Nashville earlier this month. With the loss, the Predators drop to 5-2 against divisional opponents.

The Predators came into this game against Colorado missing three very important pieces of their lineup in Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson and P.K. Subban. The three of them contribute in different ways, and it leaves the Predators scrambling to fill the voids. No easy task when you’re playing a solid team like Colorado.

This game was a clash of heavyweights. Yes, you can argue that Colorado may not be on the level of a heavyweight just yet, but their top line sure is. Combine that with some nice complimentary players and solid goaltending and you get a dangerous team. Here’s how it all went down in the high-octane meeting full of elite scorers and speedsters.

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Pekka Rinne keeps it close

You may not see it in the box score, but this loss isn’t on Rinne. It’s nowhere close. Out of the three goals given up, I really only put one of them on him. Consequentially, that ends up being the game-winning goal from Tyson Jost, a small part of Colorado’s talented, young nucleus. However, the other two from Nathan MacKinnon are just spectacular goals from a superstar, along with some shaky defense in front of him.

Rinne really shined in the second period when Nashville came out sleepwalking. Colorado had several great scoring chances where Rinne stood tall to keep the game from getting out of hand. He stopped a flurry of shots from MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog in a 15-second span that could’ve easily made it a multi-goal deficit.

The fact of the matter is the Predators didn’t play their best defensive game in front of Rinne. There were a lot of counterattacks on the part of Colorado that led to a lot of scoring chances. The lethal top line led by MacKinnon had too much room to operate for much of the night. You also just have to tip your cap to a team that looks much better than the first-round Avalanche team from last year’s playoffs.

Kevin Fiala breaking out of his slump?

In may be in a losing effort, but what a performance from Fiala. He’s fighting his way out of a slump, no doubt about it. But progress was made in this game. He was all over the ice forcing the action and creating pressure on the defense. He nearly broke out of his scoring slump on an open net, but the puck skipped over his stick. He would have to wait a little longer to get his first goal in over two weeks.

A gorgeous set-up from Filip Forsberg entering the zone gets Fiala the goal he’s been searching for. Here a look at that goal which tied it at 2-2.

I thought the momentum was steadily shifting to Nashville’s favor at this point. Fiala had his stick down on the ice crashing towards the net, and Forsberg did the rest. A great thing to see from Fiala, but Forsberg deserves a lot of credit for the assist. Great leaders find ways to not just score, but make their linemates better as well. The Predators really need to Fiala to continue trending back into the player he was towards the end of last season that got him to 23 goals.

MacKinnon terrorizes the Predators

This game really comes down to MacKinnon being one of the deadliest scorers in the NHL. He creates so much offense even when there seems to be nothing there. Without Rinne’s brilliance in net, MacKinnon could’ve easily had three or four goals. Other than getting stoned by Rinne a couple times, there’s nothing he did wrong in this game.

MacKinnon’s final stat line finishes with two goals, seven shots on goal and over 21 minutes of time on the ice. With the Predators not at full strength, I was worried about how they would handle MacKinnon’s line. As expected, it was a grind and somewhat a miracle that the Avalanche managed just three goals.

I wrote earlier this month about the rivalry that is brewing between these two teams. I’m doubling down on that feeling after the latest meeting. Colorado, led by a superstar like MacKinnon, is going to be a tough out for whoever runs into them in the playoffs. I won’t be surprised if the Predators and Avalanche meet in the conference finals.

Three stars

Third Star: Pekka Rinne

I understand the numbers don’t look great, but you have to look past the box score. Anyone with eyeballs and a simple understanding of hockey knows that Rinne kept this game from being a blowout. It took some spectacular saves, particularly in the second period, to give the Predators a chance until the final horn.

Second Star: Semyon Varlamov

Varlamov in return has a great game for Colorado. He allows just two goals despite 37 scoring chances and 11 high dangers chances, per NaturalStatTrick. If Colorado gets this steady of play in net from Varlamov in the playoffs, they’ll be a terror to deal with just like they were in this game.

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First Star: Nathan MacKinnon

He was the best player on the ice in this game and he showed it. He got robbed a couple times that kept him from getting a hat trick. He’s that player that you hate because he’s not on your team. His two goals give him 17 on the season and six goals over his last seven games.