On a night when what seemed to be an abnormal amount of Penguins fans were flocking to Bridgestone Arena, the Predators were frustrated by a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of Phil Kessel, with an assist from the stick of Evgeni Malkin into the skates of Filip Forsberg.
Battling to a scoreless first period, the Preds reeled off a solid five minutes of hockey on the penalty kill as rookie Austin Watson received a major boarding penalty about five and a half minutes into the game. The “major” call was borderline, as Watson used his shoulder to send Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin into the glass. The Predators PK was brilliant, allowing Pittsburgh just two harmless shots that Pekka Rinne turned aside effortlessly. In the five minute span, Craig Smith had an excellent shorthanded chance, but as with many Preds shots tonight, hit Penguin goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury squarely in the pads.
Chris Kunitz scored the first goal of the game, seconds after the Penguins had killed off a tripping penalty to Malkin, who played chippy all night long, continually jabbing and jabbering at Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm. After a sluggish first period from a shot perspective (Preds had just 5 to Pittsburgh’s 7), the teams traded 28 shots in period two, with the Preds outshooting the Pens 17-11. The big problem from my perspective was the Predators inability to get in the line of Fleury’s vision. Someone needed to out-Hornqvist former Pred Patric Hornqvist, who often found himself getting pushed or whacked by Preds goalie, Rinne.
Third period action was both breathtaking and captivating as Nashville took a decided territorial advantage, playing long stretches both without a whistle, and deep in the Penguin zone. With the team’s unbeaten streak at home on the line, the Preds once again fired 17 shots at Fleury, and unlike period two, one did find its way behind the goal line to knot things up. Former Penguin, James Neal, lit the lamp for his sixth goal on the young season, firing a wicked shot that flew just under the crossbar at the 11:27 mark for the equalizer.
With one more minor to the Pens (Ian Cole went off for hooking with less than five minutes to go in regulation,) the Preds got a number of chances, but could not put the go-ahead goal behind Fleury, and the 3 on 3 overtime was called into effect yet again. Unlike the previous efforts, where nothing was solved until the shootout, this time just 41 seconds into OT, Kessel lit the lamp sending what felt like half the building home happy, and the home team fans disappointed, despite a stellar effort from the Preds.
Some housekeeping notes included the “recall,” of Milwaukee Admirals forward Viktor Arvidsson, who may or may not have actually flown to Wisconsin yesterday, but did have the opportunity to dress for the Preds due to an illness to forward Calle Jarnkrok. Arvidsson, playing on a line with Cody Hodgson and Gabriel Bourque saw 7:40 of ice time and was a minus one, with a couple of shots on goal. Again, he looked easily moved off the puck in the defensive zone, and he, as well as a few other Preds had excellent scoring opportunities thwarted with skipping pucks, off sides, or general buffonery. Also, sent to the Admirals on a conditioning assignment was defenseman Anthony Bitetto. Having dressed in one game for the Preds this season, Bitetto was in the lineup for the Admirals 4-2 loss tonight, going minus 3. Admiral goals came from Stevie Moses (his first North American goal,) and Max Reinhart, who also led the team with 4 shots. Juuse Saros took the loss in nets, as Milwaukee falls to 1-3 in its first four games this season.