The Nashville Predators overcame two multi-goal deficits against the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings and walked away with two points. Matt Duchene scored his first two goals of the year against both teams.
Against L.A.: Ryan Ellis (2), Filip Forsberg (2), Ryan Johansen (2), Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok
What Happened (Washington)
Following a decisive 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, the Predators carried their third-period enthusiasm back into Bridgestone Arena against the Washington Capitals. Although Nashville went into the second period tied, they had outplayed Washington in terms of total shot attempts and scoring chances. Filip Forsberg netted Nashville’s first goal of the night on a make-shift breakaway.
The Capitals pushed back in the second period and grabbed a two-goal lead thanks to two Alex Ovechkin power play goals and a short-handed Tom Wilson goal. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson connected following one of the Ovechkin goals.
The Predators came out swinging in the third period, as Duchene and Johansen tied the game up within 7 minutes of play. Although T.J. Oshie reestablished the Washington lead, Nick Bonino and Mattias Ekholm scored two unanswered goals and won the game for Nashville.
What Happened (L.A.)
Nashville travelled out to Los Angeles following their comeback victory over Washington, and this game was not as memorable. Mikael Granlund scored the first goal on a ridiculous shot, but the Kings ultimately dominated the Predators for 40 minutes.
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After spending a significant amount of time in the defensive zone, allowing four goals in the process, the Predators finally responded in the third period. Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, and Colton Sissons each contributed a goal, tying the game at four apiece. After a breakdown in coverage, the Kings’ Alex Iafallo snagged his first goal of the year. Los Angeles tacked on two more empty-net goals, and the damage was complete.
Forsberg, Duchene, and Johansen are all riding a five-game point streak. In that span, Duchene has netted two goals and recorded seven assists, enough to lead the team in overall points. Forsberg and Johansen swiftly follow with seven points each.
There is one glaring issue with Nashville’s top six: the left wing position for the Johansen line. Ideally, Kyle Turris should see some time in that position, as the trio of Turris-Johansen-Arvidsson worked quite well in the preseason. Calle Jarnkrok and Craig Smith recently played on that line and both benefitted.
The best defensive pairing so far is Ellis-Josi. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis have totalled ten points together, have been on the ice for eight goals together, but have seen eight goals scored against the Predators together. Furthermore, their Corsi For percentages are hovering at 60%, their scoring chances are at a solid 57.27%, and their expected Goals For percentage is right at 52.59%. As a pair, they are driving offense and lacking in defense. That is not an uncommon theme for this team.
Mikael Granlund and Viktor Arvidsson are the two most underrated players on the team right now. Arvidsson, with five points, has hit four posts in three games and very nearly scored against San Jose, which is the only game he hasn’t registered a point. Granlund appears to be the fastest skater on the first line and has forechecked in the neutral zone and defensive zone very well.
Overall, the team relied heavily on goaltending in the first two periods of both games and flipped the scoreboard in the third period. The second period looked like a nightmare in both games, but there is something to be said about late pushes.
Working defensive kinks out over the course of 82 games isn’t an impossible feat; moreover, utilizing offensive firepower and the will to overcome two multi-goal deficits proved impossible last year. The aurora of Nashville’s scoring will take them deep into the playoffs if they can clean up zone transitions and defensive containment.
Nashville continues their West Coast road trip in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights this Tuesday and finish in Arizona against the Coyotes on Thursday.