It was not the debut that goaltender Devan Dubnyk wanted with the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. What began as a rough first period for the Predators, turned out to be quite the exciting hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche. Even though Nashville tallied three goals in the third, they were not able to overcome the 5-1 hole they had dug themselves into, falling 5-4.
“He got nervous and was rusty,” said head coach Barry Trotz on goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “I know Dubnyk has been in the league a long time and I’ve seen a lot better games from him, but it was his first game. We gave him very little support early and it just looked like he was nervous after that.”
Nashville came out with lots of energy to begin the first period, playing tough defense and generating some two really good scoring opportunities. Not even a minute into the game, Eric Nystrom and Cody McLeod drop the gloves. Multiple punches were landed and it brought the sellout crowd 17,113 to their feet.
All of the positive aspects of the intense start for the Predators were doused when the Avalanche scored at 6:21 of the first. Devan Dubnyk made multiple saves, but after about the fourth attempt, Nick Holden notched his third of the season (from MacKinnon and Stastny) when Dubnyk could not recover from the onslaught.
In working hard to attempt an answer to the Holden goal, the Predators generated multiple scoring chances from Nystrom and Victor Bartley while keeping the puck in the zone. Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov was up to the task and stopped every attempt in this flurry.
The floodgates seemed to open as Colorado scored goals just 38 seconds apart. The first coming at 11:27 with a point shot from Jan Hejda for his sixth of the season. Next, by Gabriel Landeskog at 12:05 from Stastny and MacKinnon. Following the two goals, Nashville immediately took their time out to hopefully reorganize the team.
Taking the timeout seemed to calm the Predators down, as they didn’t allow many more scoring opportunities to the Avalanche the rest of the period. Nashville even generated a few opportunities themselves, but Valarmov stopped each one. At the end of one, Colorado was ahead in shots 14-9.
“I thought in the first period, we weren’t really good,” said Trotz on the rough start. “I thought we got outcompeted around the net, and a couple of our defensemen weren’t good tonight. After the first period, we stabilized and then had a great second period.”
The second period started off with Nashville applying a lot of pressure to Colorado. At 3:40, the Predators went on the power play as Ryan Wilson was called for holding Patric Hornqvist. The crowd grew restless and Nashville was only able to muster shows from the point by Shea Weber, Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones.
Showing the pressure that the Predators were putting on the Avalanche, Colorado did not even register their first shot on goal until just over seven minutes into the second.
At 14:01, the puck was whistled dead as Nashville was about to go on the power play. Right after the whistle blew, Paul Gaustad and Erik Johnson dropped the gloves right in front of the Avalanche crease. The fight was fairly short lived and Nashville would go on the five-on-three power play after two Colorado penalties, Landeskog for elbowing and Johnson for roughing.
Being able to move the puck around, Mike Fisher finds Hornqvist in front of the net, where he buries it for his tenth goal of the season at 14:36. With this goal, Hornqvist moves into seventh all-time in franchise goal scoring.
“I have to score more goals and I have to be better for the team,” spoke Hornqvist on his historical moment. “It was my fault that they scored the first goal and we had to come from behind. I have to be better.”
Nashville only converted on one of the two power play opportunities but continued to have the momentum throughout the entire second period. As time was running out, a Weber shot goes past Varlamov, but it was just three tenths of a second too late and the teams would enter the second intermission with a score of 3-1 in favor of the Avalanche.
Colorado was quickly able to halt any momentum that Nashville had built as they began the third period with a goal at 2:31. Nick Holden scored his second goal of the game with a shot from the point that was slowed by Dubnyk, but then slowly trickled past him before any defensemen could sweep it out.
Adding the the woes of the Predators, Rich Clune took a roughing penalty at 4:51, putting the Avalanche on the power play. Near the end of the power play, Colorado was able to convert with a goal from Matt Duchene. This goal was his seventeenth of the season and brought the score to 5-1, Avalanche.
Craig Smith has been playing extremely well of late and his hard work paid off at 8:14 when he pushes one past Varlamov for his 15th of the season.
The Predators had another opportunity to inch closer as they went on the power play when Paul Stastny took a tripping penalty at 9:46. Unfortunately for Nashville, they weren’t able to garner any opportunities, let alone time in the zone and the Avalanche killed the penalty.
Immediately following the end of the penalty, Ryan Ellis blasted one past Varlamov to continue his hot streak for his third of the season at 12:45. At this point, Nashville is clawing their way back into the game, now only trailing 5-3.
“It would have been nice to get all the way back,” said Ellis on the rally in the third period. “To get down four there late is pretty tough and we almost did it. They played well, they deserved the two points, but we showed a good effort though.”
Not for lack of chances, the Predators continue to hammer Varlamov with shot after shot, and he stops every single one of them. Finally, they break through at 17:03 with a goal from Roman Josi, his fifth of the season. The Avalanche immediately call their timeout.
With the Nashville net being empty at 19:00, the Predators did everything they possibly could to tie the game. Following an offensive zone face off with 15 seconds remaining, one Nashville shot even went off Varlamov’s mask. Even though they tried everything they could, the Predators could not muster the game-tying goal, falling 5-4.
“I think the second and third periods were positive, we started playing and we started to win the battles,” said Roman Josi on the positives to take out of the game. “You see that if you play the right way and you get the chances you are going to score some goals, but like I said we just didn’t do it in the first.”
Below are comments from head coach Barry Trotz.