The NHL’s reigning MVP struck the Nashville Predators twice in the last minute of regulation to give Tampa Bay the exhibition win.
It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Lightning roster is loaded with elite scorers and can pounce on you quickly. That was witnessed firsthand as Nikita Kucherov tallied two goals in the last minute to break the 1-1 tie with Nashville.
The Predators rolled out a lineup for this one with some interesting young players like Dante Fabbro, Jeremy Davies, Eeli Tolvanen and Daniel Carr. None of them were able to register a point in this game. Perhaps Tolvanen finally cooled off a bit this offseason.
In regular season action the Predators have had some moderate success against Tampa Bay in recent memory. They took both contests last season, and has taken five of the last six in the series. That’s impressive considering how great Tampa Bay has been over the past several seasons.
Solid night in goal for Saros
Juuse Saros takes the loss in this one, but he looked sharp for most of the game. He stopped 29 of 31 shots faced, and just simply got beat by an elite scorer in Kucherov to surrender the lead late. Even the best of the best are going to get beat by players like Kucherov. It also came on a great assist from Ondrej Palat, who’s going into his eighth season with Tampa Bay. Let’s take a look at that goal:
The game-tying goal was just horrible defense by the Predators. You see four Predators players sucked into the corner, leaving a wide open Alexander Volkov to tee off on Saros. On this play I see Mikael Grandlund get caught napping instead of staying in front of the net to block the shot. You can’t put that one on the goaltender.
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Saros still looks primed and ready to go for the regular season after two preseason appearances. He now has 45 saves on 47 shots faced, good for a .957 save percentage. Not too shabby as he gets ready to back up Pekka Rinne once again this season.
Not much offense from Predators
For the second-straight preseason game the Predators were held to just one goal. This lone goal did comes on the power play from Calle Jarnkrok. He remains an important piece of the Predators’ bottom six. Assists came from Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino.
Bonino is having a productive preseason campaign so far with two goals and two assists. He’s another big part of the bottom six, and he could also possibly be on the trade block. I expect to see him as the fourth line center to start the season on October 3rd against Minnesota.
The Predators managed 32 shots on goal against Tampa Bay’s Curtis McElhinney. That matched Tampa Bay’s shot output of 32 put up against Saros. Overall it was a well-played game for the Predators if you take out the last ten minutes where there were a couple defensive breakdowns and a high-sticking penalty by Rocco Grimaldi against Kucherov that led to the tying goal from Tampa Bay.
As mentioned earlier, Tolvanen was finally kept quiet in what has been a productive offseason. He’s showing a lot of growth and development, and is making his case for the opening night roster. However, in this one he’s kept in check with just one shot on goal and two minutes of time on the power play unit.
The Predators will now come home to Nashville to take on Tampa Bay again. The roster hasn’t been announced yet, but head coach Peter Laviolette hinted that we’ll see some preseason debuts in the conclusion of the home-and-home series with Tampa Bay, per the Predators official website.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT and can be heard on the Predators flagship radio station 102.5 The Game.