MVP Sports Channel

McLeod, Grant Welcome Additions to Preds

Hi again, Friends…

Deb back here in the zone to bring you updates from this past week’s Nashville Predators’ games and details on their attempt to acquire needed points in the divisional standings. It’s a five-game road trip ahead, so hold on tightly!

It was hockey afternoon on Saturday when the Predators traveled to Denver to take on the Avalanche for the forth time this season. With three previous wins, our guys in gold hoped to keep their winning ways going in this important division game. It was Pekka Rinne getting the starting nod for Nashville, and James Neal returned to the lineup after missing the last five games. P. K. Subban remained on IR as well as Wilson, Salomaki, and newly-added Roman Josi after a blow to the head sidelined him in the previous game. The Avalanche took the early lead with a drop-in shot behind Rinne. With a couple of power plays for both teams that were not converted, the score remained unchanged at the end of the 1st. Early in the 2nd, the Avalanche extended their lead to 2-0 with a laser slap- shot by Francois Beauchemin giving him his first goal of the season. The goal came right after two players “dropped the gloves” and duked it out, as hockey players sometimes do. The surprising part of that story is that the Preds’ player fighting was Cody McLeod, who was acquired only the previous day in a deal from Colorado, so his opponent in the altercation was his teammate 48 hours prior……wow, what a way to show your new team that you are all in! After his time in the penalty box, for fighting, McLeod lit up the Preds’ bench by putting in his first goal as a Predator, getting Nashville on the board 2-1…..way to go, Cody! Play remained physical till the end of the 2nd, but there was no change on the scoreboard. Then 5 minutes into the 3rd, the always- awesome Mike Fisher picked up a loose puck and skated from mid-ice to bury his 12th goal of the year, tying the game at 2 each! About 8 minutes in, Filip Forsberg took a puck from a face-off in their offensive zone and put in a super-quick wrist shot ….3-2-Preds…SWEET! Nashville fought off an empty net try from Colorado and hung on for the 3-2 win, adding to their 3-in-a-row streak!

On Tuesday night, the Predators began a run of games north of the border, starting in Vancouver vs. the Canucks. Hoping to keep the wins going and move up in the Western Conference standings, Nashville started the game with Pekka Rinne in the net, but still without injured players Subban, Wilson, Josi, and Salomaki. Both teams came out of the gate fast. But the first goal of the game came with about five minutes remaining in the 1st when a pile-up of jerseys occurred in front of the Vancouver net, and Derrick Grant, a newly-acquired Predator, pushed the puck behind goal line in the blue ice, putting in his first career NHL goal. Unfortunately, the goal was reviewed and was overturned on an official’s “intent to blow the whistle” before the puck crossed the goal line—-(WHAT???? Hmmm..…not too high on that call)!!!! In any case, the goal was disallowed…(ugh) and the 1st period ended with no score on the board. The middle period yielded no score either. Finally with 7 ½ minutes remaining, the Canucks took a rebound off the back wall and batted it in for a 1-0 lead. That lead stood up, as the Predators got numerous good looks, but could not get the tying goal into the net. Rinne made 25 saves on 26 shots, but with no goals themselves, the Preds were handed their first loss in four games.

Hoping to get back on track, the Preds continued their road trip through Western Canada on Thursday night in Calgary vs. the Flames. In goal for Nashville was Juuse Saros, the back-up goal who has gotten the league’s attention with his remarkable save percentage of .957. Still out of the lineup on injured reserve were Subban, Josi, Wilson, and Salomaki. Early in the 1st, James Neal picked up a rebound in front of the blue ice and put it back in for his first goal since returning from IR several games earlier, giving the Predators the lead, 1-0. Nashville’s penalty kill unit stepped up as they were forced to hang in there for a 5 on 3 situation near the end of the period, allowing the Preds to keep their lead. About midway into the 2nd, the Predators extended that lead on a shot by Ryan Ellis, 2-0 Preds! Then with only a minute left in period 2, Ellis put the Predators out in front 3-0 on a power play goal underneath the vertical leap of Viktor Arvidsson in front of the Calgary net….awesome! With half of the final period left to play, Arvidsson (aka Mr. Hustle) assisted on a score as Filip Forsberg lit the lamp with his 12th goal of the season, and lifting the Nashville lead to 4-0. The Flames made a push as time was winding down, as teams almost always do, and made it to the scoreboard on a power play goal with about 3 ½ minutes left on the clock. Then, a few seconds later, they scored again, but the goal was waved off by the official who saw goaltender interference with Saros. The goal was reviewed, the call was overturned, and the Flames got on the board again……2 goals in less than 2 minutes….YIKES! With a 4-2 score now, the Flames pulled out their goalie for an extra attacker. That strategy worked this time as the Flames kept the pressure on in the Preds’ defensive zone, and with 47 seconds remaining, they added yet another score…grrrr! Fortunately, the clock expired with no other score, and Nashville held on to grab the 4-3 win and the 2 points they badly needed……Whew!

On Thursday night, the Preds moved on to the final leg of the Canadian road trip in Edmonton, taking on the Oilers. The big news going into this came was the return of P. K. Subban to the lineup after his 16-game omission due to injury. After resting the previous night in Calgary, Pekka Rinne was back between the pipes. Both teams played aggressive, fast hockey in the 1st, with a couple of power plays, a fight, and some tremendous saves by both goalies, but the period ended with no score. In the 2nd, the Preds again had multiple scoring chances on power plays, but could not find the back of the Oilers’ net. Finally with around 3 minutes left in the middle period, Viktor Arvidsson chipped a rebound in for the first goal of the game. Then a minute later, the Oilers tied it up with a goal by former Predator, Matt Hendricks and suddenly, the game was even at a goal each , a score which held up until intermission. The 3rd period got underway with more of the same; then 7 minutes in, Ryan Ellis broke the tie on an awesome wrist shot….2-1 Preds. With 5 minutes remaining, the Predators found themselves in a tricky situation as they had 2 men in the penalty box resulting in a 5 on 3 for a short time…..very hard to defend! Sure enough, the Oilers tied it up on a power play goal ….2-2. With more pushing and shoving, the Predators needed desperately to keep their cool heads and stay OUT of the penalty box! They were able to make a strong push, but no score was allowed…..OT hockey time! On the opening face-off of the OT period, Edmonton’s big gun, Connor McDavid took the puck and made a diving shot, knocking the net off its moorings, but the puck stayed out….whew! Rinne made some monster saves to keep the period going. With no score as time expired again, the game went to a shoot-out. It was an amazing finish for our guys this time though, as shooters Ellis and Neal both lit the lamp and Pekka kept the wall up allowing nothing past him. It was a 3-2 shoot-out victory for Nashville……what a game!!!

It turned out to be a big week for the Preds with 3 wins in 4 games. With the 6 points they picked up, our guys got things on track to be back in position for playoff contention. They stayed on the road for one more game vs. the Wild on Sunday for a 4-2 win, before returning to Bridgestone Arena next week. We need those wins to keep coming….stay tuned, Hockey Fans!

Go, Preds!

Debra MurrayDebra Murray is a weekly contributing writer for MVP Sports Channel (and die-hard fan of the Nashville Predators). 

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