Nashville returned to the ice last night fully fresh after an unanticipated five-day break, but two truly unfortunate Blue Jackets goals offset the Predators' formidable forecheck, leading to their 3-0 shutout loss in Columbus.
For the first time since Apr. 27, 2018- Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against Winnipeg- the Preds took zero penalties in the entire 60 minutes. They were extraordinarily well-disciplined and dominated puck possession, but simply did not create enough high-danger chances to get the puck past Elvis Merzlikins in his first start since Jan. 31.
Columbus' two deciding goals appeared to be of a frustratingly accidental origin. Cam Atkinson's fifth goal in as many games occurred after the puck took a parabolic deflection off a diving Matt Benning's skate and rose about three feet over Juuse Saros' head before landing fortuitously past the goal line. The Jackets' second goal actually had to be reviewed by officials because, ironically, the puck seemed to have glanced off a referee before hitting the back of the net. Though it was ruled a good goal, Saros was undoubtedly screened from Max Domi's shot by the linesman.
The Preds' attempt to come roaring back in the third, outshooting the Blue Jackets 13-4, was ultimately foiled by their lack of quality shots. Nashville and Columbus finished the game with just five HDCF apiece, even with the Preds having recorded ten more shots than the Jackets.
The Preds' leading scorer, Filip Forsberg, failed to record a single shot and finished the night with a -2 on ice rating. Benning, Matt Duchene, and Viktor Arvidsson all also went -2.
Columbus' Riley Nash was the lone player to finish +3, while Michael Del Zotto went +2 with six hits.
The Preds will return to the ice at Nationwide Arena tomorrow night in a rematch with the Blue Jackets.