Predators vs BruinsIn their first meeting at Bridgestone Arena since March 17, 2011, the Nashville Predators entered Monday’s match-up against the Boston Bruins looking to avoid a four-game losing streak. The Bruins, on the other hand, were looking to improve on their average-looking road record (9-7-0 before Monday’s game). Unfortunately for Nashville, Boston thwarted any opportunity for a comeback early in the third period, defeating the Predators 6-2.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”I’ve been seeing too many of those from playing goalie roulette lately.”[/pullquote]

Just 1:16 into the first, Jarome Iginla was able to re-direct a Zdeno Chara shot from the point for the first Boston goal. This quickly quieted the crowd of 17,207 at Bridgestone Arena. Just one and a half minutes later, Eric Nystrom and Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves, which awakened the fans that had fallen silent so quickly. Both fighters landed tremendous blows, but the crowd rose to their feet when Nystrom landed a jab straight to the face of McQuaid. The fight seemed to spark some energy into Predators as they forced multiple turnovers in Boston’s zone. What energy was gained from the bout was immediately diminished as Matt Fraser scored his first goal of the season by going top shelf on Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton. Of note, Fraser now has two career goals, both of which have come against the Predators. Following Fraser’s goal, head coach Barry Trotz thought it was necessary for a goaltending change as he sent Marek Mazanec in to replace Carter Hutton.

“Once I saw the second goal, I had seen enough. I’ve been seeing too many of those from playing goalie roulette lately,” said Trotz on his decision to pull Hutton.

At 9:03 of the first, Seth Jones was called for hooking Matt Fraser. Early on in the penalty kill, Nashville was able to spend some time in Boston’s end, helping time tick away on the penalty kill. Nearing the end of the power play for the Bruins, Carl Soderberg snapped a pass from the corner of the trapezoid, across the crease to Reilly Smith, where he buried it past Mazanec for his 12th of the season. To close the period, the Predators were able to close the period with multiple opportunities and puck possession in the Bruins’ zone, but were not able to bury any chances.

Nashville showed signs of life during the second period due to a couple of penalties on the Bruins. With Chara in the box for too many men on the ice at 5:29, the Predators generated many chances, but Boston defended well on the penalty kill, clearing the puck multiple times. With the penalty over, Mike Fisher threaded the needle on a beautiful pass to Patric Hornqvist on a breakaway, but Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was up to the task, coming up with a save on the attempt.

It was a frustrating night for Nashville, but as a leader, Patric Hornqvist simply stated, “We just have to play simple and hard and believe in each other. I think that’s the way right now for us.”

The Predators were finally able to get on the board in their next power play. At 9:43, Patrice Bergeron was sent to the box for hooking Kevin Klein. On the ensuing power play, Seth Jones fired a heavy shot from the point (off a pass from Ryan Ellis) and Craig Smith found the rebound right in front at 11:35 to net his ninth of the season. With that power play goal, Nashville has now scored with the man advantage in six straight games.

Of note, Craig smith now has five points (3G-2A) over his last five games. Of his last five goals, three of Smith’s have now come on the power play. Smith’s goal seemed to ignite the Predators in creating more opportunities off of Boston turnovers, but they were not able to tally anymore goals.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”We battled back, and we put ourselves in a hole.”[/pullquote]

Early in the third, Predators fans thought they might be able to witness a comeback special. With Craig Smith in the slot, Nick Spaling fed him a pass from just outside the trapezoid to the left of Rask at 3:25, giving Smith his second of the game and team-leading tenth of the season. Momentum appeared to shift in favor of the Predators, but one minute later, Nashville took a too many men on the ice penalty, one that has plagued the team quite often of late. Twenty three seconds later, Paul Gaustad takes a costly cross checking penalty, giving the Bruins 1:37 of five-on-three play.

“We battled back, and we put ourselves in a hole. We didn’t get any saves. We took two untimely penalties,” said a frustrated Barry Trotz.

Only 17 seconds into the five-on-three, David Krejci found Jarome Iginla hovering in front of the crease to give him his tenth of the season. While still on the power play with a one-man advantage, Boston increased their lead back to three when Ryan Spooner found Carl Soderberg on a drop pass and to go five-hole on Mazanec and registered his third point of the game.

“I knew they played Montreal a couple of nights ago. Montreal went up three nothing and they came back, so to get that fourth goal was huge. When we scored forty-five seconds after that too, I think we actually really needed that so it was good,” said Ryan Spooner on the quick power play goals after Nashville had battled to within one.

The Bruins continued to pile on the goals late in the third. In a moment that made Seth Jones look a little green, Reilly Smith tapped the puck away, creating an odd-man rush where Smith found Brad Marchand at 15:54 to bring the score to 6-2.

Overall, it was two costly penalties that cost the Predators this game. After fighting back to make it a one-goal deficit, Nashville allowed two, quick power play goals, which took any momentum gained, immediately away. The road does not get any easier for the Predators after the Christmas break. Their next three games are against Dallas, Los Angeles and Detroit. With two of those games being conference games, Nashville absolutely needs wins against conference opponents. As they move forward, it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts.

Non-hockey notes:

  • During the second intermission, there was a special Military Salute where a solider that had just returned home from a tour of tour proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes.
  • Tonight was a video throwback night as game ops used the old standard, “Pred-A-Tors” frogs video as inspired by these frogs.
  • Did you know? Boston is the only team Nashville has not made a transaction with (trade or waiver claim) since the Expansion Draft when the Predators selected Mike Sullivan on June 26, 1998.

Below is post-game video with Colin Wilson and Barry Trotz. Wilson speaks on the frustration of Monday’s game and looks ahead to Dallas.