The Nashville Predators closed out their season opening two-game road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night in the Mile High City.
The Preds got off to a better start than they didn’t against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but more defensive breakdowns saw the Avs jump out to a 2-0 lead before the Preds finally responded with a goal from Paul Gaustad.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, Mike Fisher picked up a pass from Craig Smith and carried it deep into the Colorado end before he threw the puck to the middle of the ice. Fisher’s centering attempt bounced of an Avalanche player and found its way onto Gaustad’s stick as he shelved a shot over Semyon Varlamov’s shoulder. Gaustad also went an astonishing 16-for-18 (89 percent) in the face-off circle on Friday night.
The Preds continued to keep the pressure on, but penalties kept them fighting an uphill battle through the final 20 minutes. Colorado was able to connect on an open-net goal to finish off Nashville 3-1.
Three Big Things:
Rinne Returns – After a less than hopeful start to the season, Pekka Rinne rebounded on Friday night, stopping 33 of 35 shots against in the loss. Despite the final score, the Finnsh netminder was back to his usual self. Rinne’s lateral movement looked normal as he made several big saves, including a huge save of an odd-man rush midway through the second period. The goals he did allow came during tough situations for the goalie. The first goal happened just after a hard collision between Paul Gaustad and Matt Hendricks in the Nashville end. When Gaustad and Hendricks went to the bench, the Preds were caught shorthanded momentarily and the Avs took advantage, jamming a rebound home. The second goal was a seeing-eye puck that found its way through two Avalanche screens and past Rinne. Even in the loss, Friday’s game will hopefully boost Rinne’s confidence heading into the five-game homestand.
Penalty Trouble – After not being assessed a penalty in the opening period, the Preds committed eight penalties through the final two periods for a total of 16 penalty minutes – only 10 of which were shorthanded. Despite spending 10 minutes shorthanded through the final 40 minutes of play, Nashville did not allow a power-play goal against. On Thursday in St. Louis, the penalty kill wasn’t as adept, allowing one goal in just 4:21 of shorthanded time.
Jones vs. MacKinnon – There was a lot of hype heading into Friday night’s game as arguably the two best players in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft faced-off for the first time in their young careers. Jones, coming off a +2 performance in St. Louis, logged a game-high 25:46 of ice time, including 5:55 of shorthanded ice time, and one shot on goal. On the other side, MacKinnon tallied an assist – his third of the season – on P.A. Parenteau’s first period goal. MacKinnon also logged 17:14 of ice time on Friday. Although MacKinnon got the best of Jones in round one, this is going to be an exciting matchup to watch for years to come.
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