The Nashville Predators suffered their last loss of 2019 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins after a bitter two game stand against the former Stanley Cup champions. While the game started as an absolute mess for Juuse Saros, the Predators offense was able to collect and bring the game up to 4-4 tie. Unfortunately for Nashville, a series of poor calls led to two quick goals for Pittsburgh.
First Period: Preds start slow, Saros is pulled 8 minutes in
Does everyone remember last night when Rinne let by three goals in fourteen minutes? Well, it seems to have gotten worse, with Juuse Saros letting by two goals in the first 65 seconds. Pittsburgh was able to follow up with yet another goal just a few minutes later, bringing the tally to 3-0 against the Preds, all before the 10-minute mark. Those three goals came from Pittsburgh’s Rust, Kahun, and Letang.
The biggest problem here? Nashville has not been able to lock down a puck in front of their own net.
This is an issue for goaltenders and defensemen alike, as four goals in the last two games have come from an absolute failure to keep the puck covered, allowing for crucial rebounds and slip-throughs to be buried home by the opposing team.
After Saros was switched out, the Nashville net was peppered with shots, but Rinne held strong. A tough wraparound from Pittsburgh found its way across blue ice, but it did not go in. The Predators heading back to the locker after the first frame down three with a lot of questions to answer.
Second Period: Preds begin to mount a comeback
Coming out onto the ice with a brand new energy, the Predators seemed to be right back in the game. Several strong chances came within the first few minutes of play and nearly the entirety of that time seemed to be in Pittsburgh ice.
However, it wouldn’t be until 4:07 into the frame that Viktor Arvidsson would follow through on a rebound and put one over the pad of Matt Murray. This is exactly the kind of goal that has so often been capitalized against Nashville in so many ways, and it was a little relieving to see them do the same.
After a tally from Alex Galchenyuk brought it back to a 3 goal lead for Pittsburgh, the Preds got right back in gear, with Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund answering with goals of their own.
Smith’s goal, his 5th in 6 games, resulted from the rebound of a shot from Roman Josi. Blackwell recovered and passed to an open Smith, who sent it right below the glove of a collected Matt Murray. With this goal, the Preds they could do something.
The ferocity of the Nashville lines continued as an off-the-post shot from Duchene turned into the rebound Nashville needed. Mikael Granlund put a crucial goal past the already over-reached Murray with just a minute left in the stanza.
The Predators would head back to the locker room down 4-3, knowing they could pull this game out.
Third Period: Poor call shifts the tide
Nashville came out of the locker room ready to fight hard, and fight they did. Nearly ten minutes of dominating offense play led to yet another goal for Mikael Granlund. His goal, at just under 9 minutes into the final frame of play made tonight Granlund’s first ever multi-goal night for the Predators.
The next nine minutes of play were a heated back and forth of offensive options, with Nashville only allowing 9 shots on net for the entire period. However, with only a minute and a half left to play, disaster struck in the form of a Goaltender Interference call on Austin Watson.
It was clear through the replays that Watson was pushed into the path of Matt Murray by another Pittsburgh player. Sadly, and to much to the dismay of Peter Laviolette, the call stood.
This power play advantage led to a questionable goal from Jake Guentzel, which was tucked right into the corner of the net despite no discernable view of it happening. This set the Preds down 5-4.
In hopes of regaining some final-minute energy, Pekka Rinne was pulled, but Bryan Rust caught a turnover and buried the empty-netter for Pittsburgh. Finalizing the score at 6-4.
Looking back: Goaltending woes continue
I, like many fans, are continually asking what the outcome of these types of games would be like if the Nashville defense stood strong in the first period? What would it be like if it didn’t always seem like we needed to come back?
We may never know, but we can only hope that, despite our injuries, we have a defense and goaltenders who can stand strong consistently through the rest of the season.
The Nashville Predators take on the Dallas Stars in their first ever NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. The game will happen at 1:00PM CST and can be caught on NBCSN