Heartbreaking losses are becoming the norm for the Nashville Predators over the last month. Their latest comes at the hands of Tampa Bay.
This mathcup featured two teams in similar situations, with both the Nashville Predators and the Tampa Bay Lightning coming up short of expectations so far. Someone had to come out of this with the win, and Tampa Bay ended up prevailing.
The Predators would put up a good defensive effort for much of the game, and clawed their way back into it late in the third period to force overtime. They salvaged a point, but that’s not really good enough anymore as the Predators are trying to make up ground in the Central Division after going 4-7-1 in November.
With the loss, the Predators now have 29 points, which has them just three points shy of the final wildcard spot. But for some reason the widespread panic continues to ripple throughout the fanbase as we wait for this team to live up to what we expected them to be going into this season.
How it unfolded
The game opened up with both teams having trouble getting any kind of rhythm. Tampa Bay would be the first to strike on a goal from Victor Hedman when his shot deflected off of Craig Smith‘s stick and into the net. An unfortunate ricochet for Pekka Rinne to have to stop.
The Predators would really settle down defensively after this to keep the deficit at just one goal. Rinne settled in as well and stopped some tough shots from Tampa Bay. The Lightning managed just three shots on goal in the opening period, but they had the lead where it counted on the scoreboard.
Things really opened up for both teams in the second period. The Predators would get the equalizer from Calle Jarnkrok on a wrist shot after a faceoff win. Jarnkrok whiffed on his initial attempt, but stuck with it and shot is past Andrei Vasilevsky.
This was kind of a fortunate goal by Nashville. Vasilevsky’s timing was definitely thrown off after Jarnkrok whiffed on the first attempt. Either way, Jarnkrok is now in double digits in goals on the year with ten. The assist would come from Kyle Turris.
A common ugly trend for the Predators has been having defensive lapses too often. This was the case with Tampa Bay’s second goal on the night, which comes just 31 seconds after Nashville tied it. Rinne kicked out a big rebound, and Tampa’s Ondrej Palat made him pay for it.
Heading into the final frame, the Predators had 24 shots on goal and still seemed very much alive in the game. Momentum wasn’t really squarely with either team. Despite giving back the lead quickly, the Predators were playing overall some pretty decent hockey.
The Predators would battle hard throughout the third period an eventually get the pay off from none other than Turris in his first game back from being a healthy scratch for seven-straight games.
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Turris would fire a rocket of a shot past Vasilevsky to tie it up and get the Nashville crowd woken up. It would also come on the power play, an area that has been looking terrible for the Predators in recent games. Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis would pick up the assists.
This one would go to overtime, and the Lightning controlled most of the two-plus minutes before the reigning NHL MVP Nikita Kucherov would toast this one away for Tampa Bay. You could see this goal coming from a mile away as Tampa brilliantly cycled through the Predators zone and set up the game-winning goal past Rinne.
Other takeaways from the game
The big one is Ryan Johansen getting the game misconduct midway through the second period for elbowing. If you ask me, this didn’t deserve a game misconduct, but just a ordinary two-minute penalty. There was nothing malicious about what Johansen was doing on this play other than an unfortunate collision.
The Predators would go onto kill the five-minute major and pull some momentum away from killing off that long penalty. That was huge that the Predators were able to keep the deficit at just one goal. This game doesn’t make it to overtime if the Predators penalty kill doesn’t dig deep right there.
And then we have Turris’ return to the lineup. He finishes the game with a goal and an assist. He played very well. I thought this was an interesting quote from Turris that he gave to Paul Skrbina of the Tennessean:
"“I learned a lot from last year. I’m not going to second guess myself anymore. I’m done with that. I’m confident in the player I am and how I know I can contribute. I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”"
At this point you have to keep Turris in the lineup every game. This whole “lineup decision” experiment has to stop. Turris is clearly the best option for this team over any other player you can call up. Until a trade partner is found for Turris, keep him in the starting lineup, please.
We found out shortly before the opening faceoff that Mikael Granlund would be out with a lower-body injury. He’s considered day-to-day and hopefully this is just a precautionary move.
The Predators were already without Viktor Arvidsson, and Johansen missed most of the second half of the game due to the game misconduct penalty. So basically half of their top six was missing to close out the game last night.
There’s now time for some rest and to reset everything for this coaching staff. They’re not buried in the standings by any means and have plenty of games left to turn this thing around. They do have points in five of their last six games.