Peks falls, Juice holds fort as Preds outlast Flames
by Jackson Walsh
It was a battle of epic proportions under the bright red screaming lights of the ScotiaBank SaddleDome Friday night in front of a crowd that saw goals, defense, tight two-way chances, all that ended in a 5-3 win for the Nashville Predators (6-1-0, 12 pts) 5-3 over the Calgary Flames (4-3-0, 8 pts).
Yet there’s a blemish on this win that we must address right out of the gate, and that is our King in goal took a big hit. Pekka Rinne, after sliding into Kevin Fiala 5:09 into the third period, pulled himself from the game which led to Saros finishing the game. Saros was dominant (9 for 9 on saves), and the Preds got a revenge win against Calgary in a far better matchup than the home opener two weeks ago in Nashville. But we all hope he’s okay. More word to come for sure.
But nevertheless, we should be happy. The team won after all and what’s even better is that, after getting blanked by the Flames the last time out, the Predators were either ahead of or neck in neck with the Flames like two valiant horses in the homestretch of a derby. It all started when Ryan Johansen rifled home a quick shot 51 seconds into the game to draw first blood. Preds lead 1-0.
After failing to get a shot for most of the opening period, the Flames would draw even 18:53 into the period after Johnny Gaudreau corralled the puck behind the net and earned an assist from a give and go pass in front to Elias Lindholm that angled it past Rinne. One all.
Craig Smith would continue his hot streak in period number two on a beautifully designed passing play from line mates Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris as he seized the day and lifted a backhander past Mike Smith to give the Predators a 2-1 advantage at the 4:09 mark.
12:51 in, it was Matthew Tkachuk’s turn to continue his hot streak on the power play coming off of a Viktor Arvidsson slash on Mike Giordano as he tipped home a rebound to tie the game at two. And the excitement keeps going.
This time, the Predators finally get the power play working. James Neal was called for a double minor high stick that put 4 minutes of 5-on-4 time for the Preds, giving Kevin Fiala his first goal of the year to make it 3-2 after honing in a loose puck that was scrapped at in front and slapping it home at 14:23.
It just keeps heating up, Calgary shows their ability to score again, this time from center Sam Bennett. Bennett took advantage of the very moment that Rinne got injured before slamming into Fiala leaving a whole patch of open net for him to drive the puck home tying the game at three 2:20 into the final period.
What transpires from there is Saros entering the game with the home team seeming to have the burst of momentum, yet the visiting club stayed unbelievably cool under pressure. “Juice”, as they call him, was squeezed on a few scoring chances and blistering shots, but they were turned away in time for Zac Rinaldo to burst down the ice and smack a line drive top shelf past Smith to give the Preds back the lead at 4-3 at 6:31.
Try as the Flames might, they just didn’t phase Saros. And it does give Predators fans confidence that at this point, with Saros’ experience, if you didn’t watch the game up until the point Rinne got hurt, you wouldn’t even blink seeing them both in there. They look like the same guy with the same talent and the same will to give it their all. A 6-on-5 effort failed, and Scoresberg mode was activated on an empty net opportunity, sealing the victory at 5-3 Predators.
Next comes the Edmonton Oilers, who are looking hot themselves on a three game winning streak after an overtime win against the Bruins 3-2 on Thursday night. The two players to watch for in that one is big time centers Connor McDavid and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins with 18 combined points through the first five games. Yet another road contest in Western Canada with a team who has momentum building after a disappointing yesteryear a season ago. Let’s keep the good times rolling and close out this mini-trip with another W.