If you could combine the phrases “close, but no cigar” and “shot themselves in the foot,” and turn them into a hockey team, that would be the Nashville Predators.
After a highly physical and disappointing loss on Saturday, the Predators were eager for a chance at revenge against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
Unfortunately for Nashville (and stop me if you have heard this before) three quick goals in the first period dug a hole too deep for them to climb out of. Here’s how the action went down.
Nashville Predators dig themselves deep
Even though Tampa Bay won the opening faceoff, Victor Arvidsson had two prompt shots on goal but were blocked away by Tampa Bay’s man between the pipes, Andrei Vasilevskiy.
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The Predators’ momentum was derailed by an early penalty to Jarred Tinordi, who was called for holding on Brayden Point. The Predators penalty kill was very strong (shocking, I know) neutralizing Tamp Bay’s speed by aggressively shutting down their zone entries and only giving up one shot on goal.
Ryan Ellis missed a wide open net after not being able to settle the puck down to his stick on the Predators first power play attempt. The first period was going strong for the Predators until Tampa Bay’s high velocity offense took over.
Tampa Bay was not finished yet. After another good defensive penalty kill, the Lightning, name befitting, screamed down the ice, crashed the net and Yanni Gourde exposed Juuse Saros again, assisted by Tyler Johnson and Anthony Cirelli.
Tampa Bay had one more goal left in them for the first period with another quick transition play, Brayden Point scores on a two man tic-tac-toe play from Mathieu Joseph with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. Tampa Bay leads 3-0 at the end of the first.
Second period started with solid play from Nashville. The defense really clogged the neutral zone and made entries difficult for the speedy Lightning, forcing them to become a dump and chase team. This penalty kill success would not last forever though and Steven Stamkos scored a power play goal with a scorching shot from the circle, assisted by Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn.
Predators had a huge opportunity to score when they had a 5-on-3 power play late in the second, but the power play failed to generate any offense and Tampa Bay easily killed the two penalties.
Matt Duchene had an excellent opportunity to put one past Vasilevskiy, but missed the net high. Second period ends, Nashville trailing 4-0.
Predators had an excellent start to the third period and much to the joy of Predators fans, young Finn
scored a beautiful goal on a perfect pass from
who was behind the net:
This goal seemed to give the Predators some energy and had Tampa Bay reeling.
It was the night of the Finns, as Mikael Granlund scored after sustained offensive pressure. Josi and Ellis were credited with the assist. The goal happens with great stick handling from Josi followed by an absolute shell from Ellis.
Unfortunately Tampa Bay played a solid defensive third period and limited Nashville’s surge. Yannie Gourde would put the game away with an empty net goal. Tampa Bay wins 5-2.
We all know and are incredibly frustrated by the disaster that is the special teams. It was good seeing some stronger penalty kill minutes but the special teams have been unpacked enough.
To me, the biggest headache from this team is the inability to play consistently for 60 minutes. No team is going to be perfect for the duration but Nashville’s streaky play will continue to lose them games. Tampa Bay is going to capitalize on every mistake you make and that really showed tonight.
Saros did not play like the score showed but was left totally exposed by major lapses in the team defense and then of course by the Lightning’s quick strike scoring.
It’s not time to pull the plug on Head Coach John Hynes quite yet and overall there has been better defense since his arrival. But the coaching staff and players need to figure something out quick or it’s going to be a long season.
It’s time for Nashville’s top players like Johansen, Duchene, and Forsberg to start earning their keep and the offense as a whole needs to find some creativity.
Now, I’m not all gloom and doom. The Predators have some really solid stretches of hockey and when they play to their full potential, they can hang with any club in the league.
Viktor Arvidsson had eight shots on goal and I believe he will heat up sooner than later.
Despite giving up four goals, Saros made some huge saves and kept the game from being much worse. It was great seeing Tolvanen get on the board. I’ve been a huge fan of his since he was drafted.
Fans have some high expectations for Tolvanen, and tonight he showed a small flash of what I believe he is capable of.
Nashville will look to get back into the win column on Thursday, but will have a tough challenge facing them against the red hot, 5-0-1, Florida Panthers.