In the second of two games against Columbus to open the season, the Nashville Predators prove their newfound offensive prowess in a 5-2 win. Despite a rough start and some heavy attack from a desperate Columbus offense, newcomers on this Nashville team continued to shine.
First Period – Columbus strikes early, Grimaldi equalizes
Coming off of a decisive third period loss last Thursday, the Blue Jackets took charge of the ice right off the bat. Thanks to an early penalty on Erik Haula, the Preds defense was quickly peppered and was starved of any early chances. The speed and high puck pressure of the top two Columbus lines quickly segmented the Nashville defense and put the young Juuse Saros on his toes.
Just short of eight minutes into the game, Michael Del Zotto crashed the net, stuffing the puck past the pads of Saros, but not entirely beyond the goal line. With the Nashville defense seemingly nowhere to be seen, Nick Foligno quickly came in and finished the job.
Not only was this the second time that Columbus had gotten the first tally, but the lack of defensive follow-through brought back a sour taste from early last season. Luckily, a quick break from Rocco Grimaldi would save the notion of Nashville disaster.
Less than two minutes after the Columbus tally, Grimaldi caught a tip from Ryan Ellis in the defensive zone. Rocco put on the gas, drove the puck up the right wing side, and sent a slap shot that trickled out of the pads of Elvis Merzlikins and into the net.
Nashville caught a break on the go ahead goal, yet struggled to establish a presence on ice. The period finished on a Nashville attack following a penalty on Columbus, but the Predators went back to the locker room being outshot 15-11.
Second Period – Goaltenders stand strong
This frame fell on the laurels of each netminder.
Facing 11 shots each period, Merzlikins handled the first two frames very well, only letting one of the 22 by. Even when Luke Kunin pressed him to the edge of the goal line, the still stood strong.
On the other end of the ice, Juuse Saros was beginning to heat up. Even with a stray puck flying across the blue ice, he handled all 13 of his shots with ease, making some big saves in the process.
The second period ended with no additional points on the board, but Columbus extended their shot lead to 28-22.
Third Period – Nashville depth scoring brings it home
Before I dive into the analysis, I just want to point out that 75% of the Preds goals this season have come in the third period.
That’s six third period goals so far this season. In two games.
Nearly two minutes into the last frame, Filip Forsberg put one in off of a turnover in our defensive end. Very similar to his goal last game, Forsberg had fast break and the easy option for a two-one-one in the form of Arvidsson, but chose to shoot early on the far side. The puck flew over Merzlikins glove side and into the top corner of the Columbus net.
Back on the burner, Columbus turned it around. Even though their attack was strong, a weird bounce would bring them back to even. At eight minutes in, an extremely low angle shot from Liam Foudy caught a lift off of Alexandre Texier’s stick towards a small opening on Saros’s arm. To the surprise of many on both benches, the puck was in and the game was tied.
Luckily, this is where the bottom begins to fall out for Columbus. A little over halfway through the last period, the Preds gained some very clear and very needed point presence. A pair of shots from Mattias Ekholm would eventually create the rebound opportunity for Brad Richardson to put one between the pipes exactly eleven minutes in. This play earned Richardson and Ekholm their respective first goal and assist of the season.
Three minutes later, the Preds made a full-ice play and strike again. A long, backhand pass from Matt Duchene found its way onto the stick of Nick Cousins, accompanied by Kunin. Cousins makes a short pass at the hash and Kunin launches a high backhand shot right under the crossbar. That was Kunin’s second of the season, with Cousins and Duchene picking up their first assists of the season.
Less than a minute later, Dante Fabbro sent a feeder pass to an open Viktor Arvidsson. Arvi made a cross-ice pass to a quickly approaching Colton Sissons, and Sissons put the work on Elvis Merzlikins one last time. A quick deke is all it took to beat the overextended netminder, and Sissons dinked it off the post and into the net.
What started as a better performance for Elvis Merzlikins quickly fell apart. He only saved 7 of 11 shots (63%) in the final frame and seals the deal for a Nashville win.
On the other end of the ice, Saros continued to hold strong, stopping all 16 shots he faced in the third. Even when the shots came in quick barrages, he kept his cool and made some fantastic saves.
Looking Back – Preds highlight depth scoring.
Every Predators offensive line got a point, dishing out points to eleven different Predators. This team is starting to look more and more dangerous and promises of greater things to come.
The addition of Mathieu Olivier brought some high values hits and a lot of fun to the ice as well. It looks like Nashville is setting the tone for hard and fast hockey in this new central division.
Looking Forward – Nashville takes on Carolina
The Preds continue their home stand with two games against the Carolina Hurricanes starting tonight at 7 PM Central! With a strong Monday-Tuesday stand, the return of Pekka Rinne and Mikael Granlund is imminent, but I doubt you’ll see both in this first game.
You can catch the game on Fox Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game.