Nashville Predators: Key Factors to the Crushing Game 3 Loss

Head coach John Hynes of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Head coach John Hynes of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators overwhelmed the Arizona Coyotes in Game 2, but just a day later it didn’t go their way with some unfortunate luck and hot goaltender.

The performances between Games 1 and 2 are like night and day for the Nashville Predators. They made the necessary adjustments after their Game 1 loss and looked unstoppable. Now they have to repeat that again or their stay in Edmonton will be over.

With the series tied at a game apiece, the Predators were looking to make a statement and take command of the series. They had the momentum and appeared to be trending in a direction that would carry over into Wednesday’s action.

Head Coach John Hynes didn’t make any changes to the lineup, including his goaltender Juuse Saros being named the starting goaltender for the third-straight game in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers over Pekka Rinne.

There were rumblings that Rinne would maybe get the start on the back-to-back, but Hynes chose to go with the hot hand. Rinne has started a game for the Predators since March 2 in a loss to the Edmonton Oilers where he surrendered eight goals.

The Coyotes had a few changes to their lineup, but the big news was Darcy Kuemper in goal and Antti Raanta not being an available backup.

Kuemper would prove to be the spoiler for the Predators as he just couldn’t be cracked.

Turning Points of the Game

In the first period, the Predators did everything right except score an actual goal. They jumped all over the Coyotes and kept them defending for most of the first.

More from Predlines

It looked like the Predators were poised to repeat what they did in Game 2, only that Kuemper had other plans.

The Predators had 19 shots on goal to the Coyotes’ nine. The Coyotes didn’t get a shot on goal until the 15-minute mark, but they made it count with a Christian Dvorak goal on their first official shot on Saros.

Instead of folding under the adversity of being down a goal like and letting it snowball, the Predators gathered their composure and started to battle back. They continued to push on offense and pepper Kuemper with shots.

The second period saw a defensive stalemate, as neither team could gain any ground. It looked more like the series most expected going into it back on Sunday.

That all changed when Viktor Arvidsson buried a slapshot, evening the score at 1-1. Arvidsson’s linemates, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, were credited with the assists, which continues the success of the reformed JoFA line.

In the third, the Predators appeared to gain the lead, but a goal by Kyle Turris was challenged due to Matt Duchene being offside. The goal was reviewed and then overturned. This was the turning point of the game.

Turris had an oustanding sniper of a shot past Kuemper, but fate would have it another way. Tough luck, but it was the right call.

After three Predators collapsed on the Coyotes’ Derek Stepan, Conor Garland took the pass from Stepan, toe-dragged to get Saros committed, and netted what was basically a one-on-one goal making the score 2-1. The Coyotes never looked back.

After a untimely Craig Smith penalty for an illegal check to the head, the Coyotes quickly scored again with a Taylor Hall goal making the score 3-1.

Hynes pulled Saros from the net to try to get some quick scoring, but the Coyotes scored the empty netter making it 4-1. Game over in a game that had a massive shift from Turris’ overturned goal to the empty-netter.

Other Factors in the Loss

The Predators had several quality chances to score, but they couldn’t get anything past Kuemper. In close to the net, he was unstoppable.

To make a deep playoff run you need hot goaltending, and the Coyotes had that in Game 3. Combine that with their rugged defense and you have yourself a very tough opponent.

The Predators took their foot off the gas in the second period. Had they kept up the first period intensity, they may have been able to take the lead. They only managed five shots on goal in the second.

The costly penalty by Smith kept the comeback attempt from happening. You can argue that maybe it was a borderline call, but either way you have to be smarter in that situation as time is running out and you’re searching for the equalizer.

All in all, the Predators played a pretty solid game until the goal was overturned. That offside call mistake by Duchene mixed in with a few other mistakes in the third gave the Coyotes the opportunities that they needed.

Must-Win Situation On Friday

Hynes may need to roll the dice and make some line changes. The second line had some shots on goal and some blocks in game three, but Hynes needs more from this line and lots more from Duchene and Mikael Granlund specifically.

I expect to see the debut of a well-rested Pekka Rinne in Game 4. The Predators are in desperate need of a performance from their goaltender similar to what Kuemper did to them. Rinne has the capability and has done it plenty of time, including the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Saros has done an excellent job in his postseason debut. None of these losses can be hung on his performance, but sometimes a big change is necessary when you’re on the brink of elimination.

The Predators now find themselves in a very tough situation on Friday. If they aren’t able to overcome this tough loss, they’ll be going home early and will be faced with the fact that they didn’t even qualify for the real playoffs featuring the traditional 16 teams.

Making the playoffs has become a regular occurrence for this franchise, so stooping down to missing the 16-team cut will be devastating and question a lot of spots for veterans on this roster.

Game 4 is Friday at 1:30 P.M. CDT and will once again be broadcast on NHL Network and regionally on Fox Sports Tennessee. If a series-deciding Game 5 can be forced, it’ll be on Sunday.