With both the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks losing today, the Nashville Predators had a chance to retake the Division lead, but fell 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche.
As they have done in their last stretch of games, the Predators started the game strongly. In the first period where they led shot attempts 25-10, Calle Jarnkrok opened up the scoring 5:02 into the first period. After a turnover by the Avalanche, Viktor Stalberg worked the puck around the boards to Matt Cullen who was able to find Jarnkrok just inside the right circle for the score. It was the Predators’ sixth shot on goal of the game while the Avalanche had been kept to zero.
Colorado was finally able to sustain a stretch of possession in their offensive zone 9:00 into the game. On a scoring chance from Jarome Iginla, Predators netminder Pekka Rinne drifted wide of the net to block the shot and when the rebound came dangerously into the crease, Colin Wilson was able to clear the puck before any of the Avalanche could knock it into the empty net.
After a few games where the Predators have struggled in the second period, they came out strongly to continue heavily outshooting the Avalanche. However, Semyon Varlamov stood strong in net to keep the game a one goal deficit and halfway through the period, there was a sense that the Predators were starting to wane in their intensity. An unfortunate turn of events when Mattias Ekholm lost his edge playing the puck out of the defensive zone resulted in a turnover and Iginla had a clear shooting lane to tie the game at 15:32.
Just nine seconds later after winning the center ice faceoff, Ryan O’Reilly took a pass from Gabriel Landeskog to give the Avalanche a lead. Like too many games as of late, the Predators found themselves the trailing team after largely controlling the game.
Second period woes continued for the Predators when late in the period, a Jan Hedja knee-on-knee hit on Ryan Ellis away from the puck sent Ellis to the locker room. The resulting interference penalty gave the Predators a power play to end the period and to start the third period. Ellis did return to the game for the third period and at 1:20 in the third tied the game on the power play. In a near reversal of events, shortly after the Predators tied the game, Roman Josi scored a goal that was waived off due to Paul Gaustad being called for making incidental contact with Varlamov. Unfortunately for the Predators, the replay indicated Varlamov skated outside of the crease and fell down by himself.
The play by the Avalanche was much more even with the Predators for most of the third period. At 4:40 in the third, Rinne made a great stop on Alex Tanguay who found himself behind the Nashville defense and shortly after made another sprawling save when the Avalanche had a flurry of activity in front of the crease. However, after a turnover by Josi, Joey Hishon scored his first career NHL goal to give Colorado back the lead at 7:06.
With about five minutes to go in regulation, Nashville had a shift with several scoring chances and continued to press, but were unable to beat Varlamov who completed the game with 40 saves.
The game was Gaustad’s return after missing one game due to injury. The Predators next game will be on Thursday, April 9th against the Minnesota Wild, who clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth today with their win against Chicago.