The Nashville Predators are back in the win column after erasing two deficits during Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers. Rookie Tanner Jeannot scored a shorthanded goal, the first for the Predators this season, and added another into the empty net in their 6-4 victory. For the Panthers, it’s the first time this season that they lost after leading by two. They are 35-11-5 and sit in the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and tonight’s loss is just the second in their last nine games.
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Eight Predators got on the scoresheet while goaltender David Rittich filled in on starting duties, stopping 44 of 48 shots in what was his best effort of the season. The Panthers opened up the scoring just under seven minutes into the first period when Sam Reinhart scored his 18th of the season but couldn’t hold on to three separate leads throughout the game.
For Nashville, the return to their winning ways was a relief for both the team and head coach John Hynes, who appeared to take a breath of relief after the game. Hynes’ team started February on the right foot, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Feb. 1, adding a fourth win in five games at the time. After the All-Star Game, the Predators looked like they were always a step behind and struggled, losing four consecutive games. While the stiff competition has caused some concern for Nashville’s recent shortcomings, the Panthers serve as one of the NHL’s greatest measuring sticks.
Roman Josi Leading The Way
If one player can be void of any criticism over the last few weeks heading into Tuesday night’s game, it’s defenseman Roman Josi. In his previous five games, the Swiss blueliner amassed one goal and eight assists, averaging 25:44 of ice time in that span. He has 31 games remaining in his 2021-22 season and is currently on pace to set career-highs in all statistical categories. In the 2019-20 campaign, he put up 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games, capturing his first Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Considering his current totals of 53 points (14 goals, 39 assists) in 51 games holds up, he will be in an excellent position to finish top-five in Norris nominations for the fourth time in his career.
Predators Avoid Five In A Row
December of the 2018-19 season is the last time Nashville lost five consecutive games. At the time, Pekka Rinne started in all five games, allowing 13 goals, while the team in front of him could only register seven of their own. After a shut-out loss to the Dallas Stars led to a subsequent 4-3 defeat to the New York Rangers, the Predators gathered their bearings and went 5-0-2 in their next seven games, collecting 12 points of a possible 14, eventually finishing the season in first in the Central and third in the Western Conference. Suffice to say, the five-game losing skid is nothing to ignore, but it also doesn’t serve as a hindrance to the remainder of the season.
Coming into Florida, the risk of losing five in a row for the first time in three seasons was very real. The Panthers are in the midst of one of the franchise’s best regular seasons, going 12-2-1 in January and rising to first place in the Eastern Conference. Scoring by committee, led by forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who currently sits in the NHL lead for points, the Panthers scored an alarmingly-high 75 goals in January. Despite their loss to Nashville, they got four goals on the board and pelted Rittich with 48 shots, looking like a well-oiled machine even in a losing effort.
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The Predators showcased a complete 60-minute effort, battling through several deficits throughout the game and overcoming an overturned goal. Luke Kunin was believed to have tied the game up at 4-4, but his goal was challenged and called back after it was deemed he pushed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky into the net prior to scoring. Their scrappy attitude is what not only kept the Predators in the game it also allowed them to eventually turn the tables on the Panthers, handing them their first loss of the season in a game they led by two goals.
Three More Penalties, One Shorthanded Goal
The game got off to an aggravating start as the trend of penalties continued when Mikael Granlund was sent off for a holding call, leading to the Panthers’ first goal one minute later. It’s the ninth power-play goal the Predators surrendered this month while allowing the first goal of the game for the fifth time in their last six games. A pattern too often repeated, Hynes recognizes that his team needs to remain physical and tough to play against while staying out of the box. Still, the majority of their infractions are inflicted through obstruction calls.
In the second period, a wild pass up the ice by Mattias Ekholm hit the skate of Kunin, who was in the process of leaving the ice on a line change. The Predators were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice, making it the fifth time in 51 games that they are penalized with this call, which now puts them in a tie for the league lead with seven other teams. The positive to come out of the game is that despite the three calls, the only one categorized as a physical-based penalty is Alexandre Carrier’s cross-checking penalty in the third period. For once, the Hynes style of playing tough was effective and aided Nashville in changing the momentum at different points in the game.
“When you talk about toughness in general, it’s mental, it’s physical, and it’s emotional,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “We didn’t get too low and we stayed focused on doing the right things. That becomes the core fabric of your group, being tough and hard to play against.”John Hynes, NHL.com Game Recap
To add insult to injury, Jeannot’s first of two goals came shorthanded during the Carrier penalty, serving as the game-tying goal midway into the third period. It was the pin that the Predators needed to pop the cushion in Florida, completely sucking the life out of the building and taking away any momentum the Panthers had on their power play. With under six minutes remaining, Granlund scored a power-play goal for the Predators, and with Jeannot’s empty-net tally, Nashville completed the comeback. The result is directly related to the style of play Hynes has preached over the last two months; Play hard and be hard to play against.