In their 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators earned a point to put them four points ahead of St. Louis, with the Blues having two games in hand. Even though gaining the point still helps their cause, blowing a 2-0 lead, then battling back to tie the game, only to lose in the shootout is still frustrating for a team looking to secure its first ever Central Division title.
After a strong start in the first period, Nashville allowed Vancouver back into the game during the second period. The Canucks tallied two goals during the second and doused any momentum that the Predators had built up throughout the first. Allowing Vancouver back into the game is not what Nashville had in mind in their game plan.
“We knew they were going to come out strong,” said Mike Fisher. “We had a solid first period and in the first 10 minutes of the second period they came and got their chances and buried. From that point on, we played pretty well, settled down a bit in the second. We just couldn’t bury it, especially late. That five minute power play was a big point in the game where we couldn’t find a goal.”
The Predators did limit the total shots from the Canucks, while on their own firing everything they could at Vancouver goaltender Eddie Lack. Including overtime, Nashville totaled 71 shot attempts while the Canucks only registered 45. Compare that to total shots on net and the Predators absolutely dominated, 38-25. Giving up four goals, not including the shootout winner, is not something head coach Peter Laviolette wants to attribute to loose play on the defense.
“I do not think we were that loose defensively,” said Laviolette. “We only gave up 40 attempts and low the 20s in shots, which is where you want to be. There were some tough situational plays that happened out there today. With the four-on-four I think we could have had a better gap and somebody got a chance to attack middle ice and be able to give off that shot.
The shorthanded goal on the power play, I do not know if that is defense or not. Seth makes a strong play, knows he is under pressure, and goes to shoot it down the wall hard and it hits the stick and carries out to center ice. I am not sure what we could have done differently to prevent that. It was just an unfortunate situation because it leaves Pekka high and dry. I do not know if there is a quantity I am seeing, but we gave up a couple of quality chances.”
The physicality in Tuesday’s game shows the not much has changed in regards to matches between the two teams. Both teams were handed out multiple penalties through the game, but Vancouver registered 39 minutes compared to only eight for Nashville. It was the usual Canucks working on getting under the skin of the Predators. Two players known for stirring it up on the ice, Kevin Bieksa and Alexandre Burrows were both ejected from the game at 16:06 of the third. Bieksa received a misconduct and Burrows a game misconduct and an interference major.
Besides the final score, the focus of the game will be on the play that lead to those penalties. While exiting the Nashville offensive zone, Burrows laid a hit to the head of Paul Gaustad. With Gaustad still on the ice and collecting his bearing, Bieska leaned over him to taunt. The end result was both players being ejected.
“The referees made the right call,” said Fisher, who saw the play from the bench. “That was a cheap shot. Hopefully Paul is going to be okay. That’s the main thing. That was cheap for sure.”
Following the game, an update was not yet given on Paul Gaustad. The league has also not stated if there will be any more disciplinary action taken on Burrows or Bieksa, but more information could develop on Wednesday. (UPDATE: Per Renaud Lavoie, Alexandre Burrows will not receive a suspension)
The Predators will now have three days without a game. With only four total games remaining, three of which against teams outside of the playoffs, the Central Division title is still completely in their hands.