Yeesh. What a frustrating night it was for the Nashville Predators as they played the Tampa Bay Lightning. After what has been an amazing run, winning 11 of 13, the Predators fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 .
It stings to get shut out at home, but what really hurts is that the score doesn’t reflect the effort of the Nashville Predators.
Ellis Returns, but Injuries Far as the Eye Can See
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The good news for the evening? Ryan Ellis made his return after missing 20 games. He also nearly tied the game 1-1, but unfortunately upon video review, the play was deemed offside, and the goal was disallowed.
The Nashville Predators have had some of the worst luck when it comes to reviews, as they’ve lost eight of nine challenges.
While it was nice to see Ellis return, there are still some very obvious gaps in the lineup.
The team is missing its top two scorers in Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen, and what’s worse, the “Biloxi Bull” as coined by Balley Sports’ Kara Hammer ,the tone-setting forward, Mathieu Olivier, is now out indefinitely.
You nearly have a starting lineup in of itself when you look at the injury report. The following players didn’t dress for the team tonight:
- Tyler Lewington
- Filip Forsberg
- Brad Richardson
- David Farrance
- Mathieu Olivier
- Eeli Tolvanen
- Alexandre Carrier
- Luca Sbisa
- Dante Fabbro
- Kasimir Kaskisuo
- Tommy Novak
- Mark Borowiecki
- Matt Duchene
Missing Forsberg, Tolvanen, Olivier, Carrier, Fabbro, Duchene, and even Borowiecki really hurts. And when it’s against the defending Stanley Cup champs, you’re up against almost an impossible task.
Still, this team showed tenacity and grit. The flow of the game felt very much like the Predators controlled it in every facet but the scoreboard. They controlled the neutral zone, created offensive opportunities, played smart defense, and did basically everything they could.
The problem? Andrei Vasilevskiy played an incredible game – there’s a reason he’s the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy.
Puck Luck Pushes Pekka and the Nashville Predators
As mentioned before, tonight’s scoreboard doesn’t really feel reflective of how the game actually flowed.
All-in-all, Pekka Rinne played an excellent game that kept the team in it from start to finish (well, until the last minute, at least). He saved 31 of 33 shots faced, and the two shots that went in would be incredibly difficult for any goalie to save.
Ross Cotton was able to score off a transition and odd man rush, basically getting Rinne 1 on 1, and putting it past him from point blank range.
Erik Cernak would add to the Tampa Bay lead with a goal in the second that looked like it ricocheted off Mikael Granlund‘s stick and Ryan Ellis‘ leg. Yanni Gourde would finish things off with an empty netter in under a minute left in the third period.
As tough as it is to see the team lose, their effort was clearly there. They looked a little gassed in the third period, but they still fought hard. The puck just wouldn’t bounce their way.
Speaking of bad puck luck, Rem Pitlick, in his second game as a Nashville Predator, got a lot of chances and nearly buried a few – he was definitely a bright spot within this game, and will hopefully round into form.
Pivotal Matchups Coming Up
The Nashville Predators hold sole possession of the fourth place spot in the Central Division standings, but they need to keep stockpiling points if they want to stay ahead in the playoff race.
Dallas is creeping up, and has played fewer games. The good news is, the Nashville Predators will face them tonight at home in a quick turnaround for both teams.
The Predators will then face Tampa Bay again on Tuesday night in what may be a grudge match between two teams who just don’t like each other (I fully expect Nick Cousins to throw hands).
Then, it’s a two-game road trip at Carolina who the Predators need to get at least one win from this season, followed by three-straight games against the Chicago Blackhawks who are still fighting for a playoff spot.
The next few weeks are going to be some wild hockey down the stretch, and tonight was just the start of what is sure to be a crazy playoff race as we get closer to the season’s end. The Nashville Predators also haven’t made any splashes as the trade deadline approaches, so these next few days could get VERY interesting.
Let’s enjoy the ride.