The Nashville Predators (24-19-6) hosted the Vegas Golden Knights (30-18-4) Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena as teams around the league resumed play after the all-star break.
The Predators entered Tuesday night’s contest looking for their fourth consecutive victory but fell short 5-1.
Early on in the first period, the Predators and Golden Knights had their fair share of shots on goal. However, the Predators’ defenses were scrambling to get in the way of the Vegas offense. But just 5:04 into the period, on a tic-tac-toe kind of play, Matt Duchene found the back of the net on a snap shot from the right circle with assists to Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg.
The lead wouldn’t be for long as the Golden Knights struck to tie it at the 6:27 mark on a wrist shot from Michael Amadio with assists to Reilly Smith and William Karlsson. The Golden Knights would make it 2-1 moments later on a wrist shot by William Carrier at the 6:54 mark as he evaded the Predators’ defense for a breakaway goal. It would be 3-1 Vegas minutes later when the Golden Knights found the back of the net in a scramble with Phil Kessel wrapping it around and in at the 11:58 mark with assists to Carrier and Alexander Stephenson.
With 4:15 to go in the first, Nashville would go on the power play when Vegas’ Brayden McNabb went off for two minutes for tripping, but the Predators weren’t able to strike on the man advantage. That’d be it for the first period with the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal 12-4 and 3-1 on the scoreboard.
In the second period, it was Vegas extending their lead to 4-1 just 2:58 into the period on a deflection by Stephenson with assists to Shea Theodore and Kessel. Around that same time, Nashville had a close chance putting the puck just past the post on the outside of the net. The Predators went two for two on the penalty kill in the period, and while they have success on that side of the puck, they need to find a way to stay disciplined and out of the box, especially when they’re getting outplayed and down by multiple goals. The second period made one other thing clear and that was shots on goal against a stellar Vegas defense. The Predators were simply not on their game offensively and it showed with 21 shots on goal for Vegas and just six for Nashville at the second intermission with a 4-1 lead on the scoreboard for the Golden Knights.
The third period was much more of the same with the additions of rising tensions on the ice between players as the Predators struggled to mount many more shots on goal. It took the Predators until just under seven minutes remaining in the period to hit double digits in shots on goal. Fans could be seen heading for the exits as the final frame winded down. Nashville pulled goalie Juuse Saros with just over three minutes remaining in the period in favor of the extra attacker. Nashville would then go on the power play when Carrier went off for cross-checking, giving Nashville a two-man advantage. Yet even with a two-man advantage the Predators couldn’t find the back of the net. Right after the power play ended for the Predators and with Saros still pulled, the Golden Knights made it 5-1 with a minute left on an empty net goal by Alex Pietrangelo with the assist to Adin Hill. The game ended with the Golden Knights in the lead in shots on goal 30-17 and a 5-1 victory on the scoreboard.
Predators’ head coach John Hynes spoke postgame on how his team can improve moving forward into their next game Saturday when they hit the road for a matinee matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers with puck drop set for 11:30 a.m.
“Guys seemed energized and ready to go, we had a couple days of practice, guys were back earlier, tonight we weren’t good in a lot of facets and there’s no excuses for it, the other team had a break too and tonight wasn’t good whether it was the speed, our competitive level, consistently, I thought our execution got us in trouble a lot of times, that took us out of offensive situations, that’s what happened tonight,” Hynes said.
He said they started off well with the first goal, but that they wanted to play a skilled game when there was no time or space.
“Lot of turnovers, lot of east-west plays weren’t there and that caused them to be able to transition back and we did a little bit better job in the second period, but when we were in the offensive zone, we weren’t competitive enough to be able to get over pucks and sustain offense,” Hynes said.
He said it was their mindset and puck play early in the game and that from a competitive standpoint they weren’t at the level they needed to be at to give themselves a chance to win a game.
“I think there were obviously a couple mistakes that wound up going in, I think it was too easy of offense to be able to give up, but I think we have to be able to respond better than we did,” Hynes said.
It also came down to missed shots and Hynes said that himself.
“Tons of missed shots that didn’t hit the net,” Hynes said. “I thought they did a pretty good job blocking shots, but we had a lot of shots that went wide and missed the net and some of them were in grade-a scoring chances.”
Hynes talked about working on their execution and their play in the offensive zone and having a competitive level.
“It’s not just the shots, it’s the things that lead up to give the opportunity to get shots and shot attempts and multiple opportunities to get better zone time,” Hynes said.
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