On Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators continued their homestand at Bridgestone Arena as they welcomed in the Vancouver Canucks. In a very physical, “playoff-atmosphere” style game, the Canucks were able to come into Nashville and steal one from the Preds, in a shootout, by a score of 5-4.
The first period was dominated by the Preds. Cody Franson started the scoring off for the Preds as he scored his first goal, since being traded to Nashville, at 4:30 of the first period. Taylor Beck added to the Nashville lead, as he beat Eddie Lack at 8:15. Nashville would go into the second period with a 2-0 lead.
Vancouver responded in the second period with two goals early in the period with goals by Linden Vey (10) at 4:04 and Jannik Hansen (15) at 6:04. Once again, Nashville let another early game lead slip away. Viktor Stalberg (2) was able to respond for the Preds with 30 seconds remaining in the period to put them up 3-2 going into the third period.
The third period would be action-packed with 3 goals, multiple penalties, and two game ejections. The scoring started early with a SHG by Alexandre Burrows at 1:23. This same Canucks player would be later ejected for what Mike Fisher called a “cheap shot” on Paul Gaustad.
The Preds and Canucks would trade PPGs in the 3rd with Chris Higgins at 5:48 and Mike Fisher at 14:57.
The controversial play of the third period came at 16:06 when Burrows laid a shoulder hit to the head of Gaustad. Along with the ejection of Burrows, Kevin Bieksa was ejected for his actions surrounding the after-effects of the play. On this one play, Bieksa received a misconduct and Burrows a game misconduct and an interference major.
Regulation ended with a 4-4 tie, so the game went to OT. After an action packed OT, the game would go to a shootout. The shootout was dominated by the Canucks. Both Vancouver representatives, Nick Bonino and Radim Vrbata, scored on Pekka Rinne, where Mike Santorelli and Filip Forsberg were both stopped by Eddie Lack.
Nashville would pick up a point, yet would lose a very winnable game, 5-4.
The Predators will have to rebound from this loss and come back as they welcome the Dallas Stars to Bridgestone Arena tonight.
Keys to Watch
Central Division up for grabs
At one point this season, it seemed as though Nashville would have already clinched the Central Division by now. Pekka Rinne was unstoppable, Filip Forsberg was creating offensive chances, Shea Weber was bombing from the point, and the Preds were getting timely scoring when it was needed. THEN, Rinne went down to injury, Forsberg went cold offensively, Weber steadied the ship but fell subject to injury, and the offense went dull. After all of that, Nashville still has the opportunity to win the Central Division. With four games remaining, Nashville has control over its destiny. If they win out, they win the Central Division. It all starts tonight vs the Stars.
Leads slipping away
It has become very noticeable that this Nashville team has a propensity of letting leads slip away. Most recently, Nashville has let the following leads slip away recently: 2-0 vs Vancouver, 1-0 vs Calgary, 2-0 vs Tampa Bay. It seems as though Nashville gets a lead and then sits back to protect the lead. This team does best when it is on attack. In the NHL playoffs, you can not sit back. A championship team has to be aggressive and it is concerning that they are losing leads at various points of recent games. Hopefully, this can be fixed with the race to the Stanley Cup starting in less than two weeks.
Tonight, the Predators will have Shea Weber, James Neal, and Matt Cullen returning to the lineup. Collectively, these players have put together 37 goals and 60 assists. Their offensive numbers have been missed from these players. They will be a welcomed sight back into the lineup tonight. The only question will be how much time and how long will it take for these players to get back into game shape.
Nashville will look to take advantage of a Dallas team that played last night. Be sure to get out to the arena tonight. If you are unable to make it out, be sure to catch all Predators coverage on FOX Sports Tennessee or listen live on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CDT.