The Nashville Predators have seen periods of genius and other periods of mental lapses this season. Thursday night in Winnipeg was no different.
The hype going into the match on Thursday night in Winnipeg was the call-up from Milwaukee of Kevin Fiala, and he didn’t disappoint. Fifty-nine seconds into the first period Fiala scored his first NHL goal of his career.
The second period was not a good period for the Preds. Nashville would give up three unanswered goals to be down 3-1 at the end of the second period.
Early in the third period, Nashville gave up another goal to be down 4-1 at the beginning of the third. The Preds would make a fierce comeback during the third. First, was a power-play goal from newly-acquired Ryan Johansen, his second as a member of the Nashville Predators.
Eric Nystrom was able to pull the Preds within one goal at 11:53 and it would be a photo finish to see if Nashville could tie it up at the end of the period. With only 14 seconds remaining, and Pekka Rinne pulled, James Neal was able to send the game to overtime.
The Preds would have another disappointing performance in an overtime period. Blake Wheeler froze Rinne on a shot from fifteen feet away and Nashville would fall to the Winnipeg Jets for a 5-4 loss.
Tonight, the Preds will come back home after a brutal road trip to take on the Minnesota Wild. In their last outing, the Wild were defeated by the Jets last night 1-0.
Keys to Watch
Two struggling teams
Both teams in tonight’s match-up in the Music City are struggling against their competition. We all know the struggle that the Nashville Predators are on, five straight losses and bad defensive play, but let us focus on the struggles of the opponent. The Minnesota Wild have lost three straight. In the last three games, their defense has been very good. Devan Dubnyk has only given up five goals in those games. Their problem has been offensive production. Over this losing streak, they are only averaging 1.00 goals per game. Nashville needs to buckle down on the struggling offense of the Minnesota Wild.
Johansen’s debut in Nashville
Tonight will be the first start of Ryan Johansen as a member of the Nashville Predators. Johansen has been playing well and seems to be re-energized after getting out of Columbus. Since joining Nashville at the beginning of the recent road trip on January 8th, Johansen has a total of six points (two goals, four assists) and has been playing as a true first line center for the Nashville Predators. Johansen will have a big reception as the Loyal Legion welcomes him to Smashville!
Hutton in net
Pekka Rinne has not been good, at all, recently. Over the last five games in which he has been in the lineup, Rinne has given up 16 goals, five of which were power-play goals, with the only win coming on January 2nd against Carolina where Rinne only gave up one goal. With these struggles in mind, coach Peter Laviolette has tabbed Carter Hutton in net against the Wild tonight. On the season, Hutton has an overall record of 3-2-1, 2.97 goals against average, and .895 save percentage. These aren’t stellar statistics, by any means, but Nashville needs to shake things up. Offensively, we saw an improvement on Thursday night, but Rinne did not play well enough to give the Preds the opportunity to win.
The Nashville Predators will hopefully turn things around tonight against the Minnesota Wild. Be sure to catch all of the action on Fox Sports-Tennessee or you can listen live on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7:00 pm!