Game One- Predators 6, Panthers 5 OT
This game was a disaster at the end. Despite Jonathan Huberdeau’s five point effort and first career hat trick, the Panthers still dropped this game. With 2:04 left in a 5-3 Panthers game, Roman Josi made it a one score game with a one timer past Sergei Bobrovsky. Joel Quenneville made the awful decision to challenge the goal, challenging that Matt Duchene touched the puck with a high stick. The challenge failed and because of NHL rules, the Panthers took a penalty. The Predators emptied their net to make it a 6 on 4 advantage and Duchene tied it up. Filip Forsberg capped off a 5 point night of his home in Overtime as he beat Sergei Bobrovsky on a breakaway.
The Panthers meltdown was a troubling sign as well as the horrific coaching decision to challenge a borderline at best high stick in a super risky situation. Forsberg takes the game’s first star followed by Huberdeau as the second star and Duchene takes star #3. Bobrovsky struggled in net. Nonetheless, the Panthers point streak survived to 7 games.
Game Two- Panthers 2, Predators 1
The next day, the Panthers looked to bounce back against the Predators. The Panthers started backup Chris Driedger in net as the Predators turned to Pekka Rinne, who made twelve saves in relief the game prior. The game did not start well as a Colton Sissions partial breakaway found its way past Driedger on an odd play. Driedger made the initial save, but Sissions forward momentum caused the puck to deflect off of it and into the net, giving Driedger a snow shower.
The Panthers turned up the heat putting 20 shots on Rinne in the first period but Rinne stood tall. Rinne was finally beat as Carter Verehaege made a gorgeous cross ice pass to Sasha Barkov to even the game at one, five minutes into the second. The Panthers took the lead ten minutes later as a Predators breakout was broken up by Mackenzie Weegar at center ice. Weegar led Verehaege and Barkov on an odd man rush. Weegar passed to Verehaege who gave it to Barkov in the slot. Barkov made the usual decision to pass while in the slot, which rarely works out, but this time it did as he found Verehaege who buried it for his 6th of the year.
The Panthers almost added to their lead twice as Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad both hit iron. The Predators would hit iron halfway through the third as well. Near the end of the game, Erik Haula had a partial breakaway that was stalled by Chris Driedger. Driedger’s strong performance won him the first star of the game in my book as Verehaege took home star #2 and Barkov star #3. Most notable was the Panthers discipline as they did not take a penalty until the Haula breakaway with 20 seconds left.
All in all, this series proved that Chris Driedger should be the man in net going forward for the time being. Barkov looked super solid, and Eetu Luostarinen had a good game when he was promoted to Line 2 in the second game. The Panthers meltdown is concerning.