With a sellout crowd for the only home game for the Thanksgiving weekend, the ball was on the tee for a feel-good home win. Unfortunately, the Nashville Predators were having none of it, and smothered the Hurricanes in a 3-0 loss that had very little for the home fans.
One might figure that based on the score that the effort was a horrible one for the Hurricanes. I actually do not think that was entirely the case. The Hurricanes started strong and had the upper hand for the first five minutes of the game. But solid defensive coverage limited the Hurricanes to only one really good chance during that five minutes. After that, Nashville was able to match the Hurricanes pace and intensity and got the better of capitalizing on a few errors and converting them to goals. First, the Hurricanes got a bit overzealous in the offensive zone. With Dougie Hamilton up into the offensive zone, Jake Gardiner failed to shift to better cover the center of the ice at the same time that Teuvo Teravainen was trying to retreat back to cover for Hamilton. The result was a breakaway that could have been a 2-on-0. Rocco Grimaldi finished by getting Petr Mrazek off balance and finishing. Then late in the first period, Filip Forsberg skated circles around the Hurricanes spinning Lucas Wallmark in circles and also attracting attention from Martin Necas and a stick-less Haydn Fleury before zipping a pass to Callen Jarnkrok who was defended loosely by Jake Gardiner. Jarnkrok beat Mrazek from point blank range to put the Predators up 2-0.
Despite the 2-0 deficit, I actually did not think the Hurricanes were bad in terms of effort and intensity. The Canes just lost by a wide margin in terms of execution and also by some margin in goaltending.
The period was similar. The Hurricanes were relatively even in terms of effort level, puck possession and shots. But the Predators deserve credit for being close to perfect in terms of attention to detail defending and giving the Hurricanes close to nothing even when they had the puck. The Predator forwards were fast and aggressive backchecking neutralizing most rush attempts by converting 2-on-2 and 3-on-2 to 3-on-3 or even 3-on-4. And even when the Hurricanes did have players at the top of the crease, they were virtually always defended. Austin Watson scored on a tip to make the score 3-0 Predators. The Hurricanes continued to push but just never really generated much in terms of grade A chances.
The third period was more of the same. The Predators were again solid defensively. The Hurricanes struggles to play cohesive hockey in terms of moving the puck from stick to stick was also a problem as was the Hurricanes power play that had a rough night. The end result was a power outage type 3-0 loss on a night when I think the compete was there but there just was not much in terms of execution.
Player and other notes
1) Warren Foegele
Foegele continued his run of strong play. He was hard on the puck and difficult to play against all night on a night when most of the rest of the team was ‘meh’.
2) Jake Gardiner
He had another rough night being victimized on the Predators first goal, taking an obstruction penalty in the second period and picking up another penalty late when a Predators forward blew right around him.
3) The power play
The power play was as bad as I can remember for some time. This was another area where the Canes level of passing sloppiness was a difference-maker. On a night when the Hurricanes desperately needed for something to break through on the scoreboard, the power play had nothing to offer.
4) The fourth line of Martinook/Bishop/McGinn
I really liked the play of the fourth line. Like Foegele, Jordan Martinook was noticeably engaged and hard on the puck all night. Bishop brought the same pace that kept him at the NHL level for a chunk of the 2018-19 season. More than any other line, they seemed to win the battle against Nashville and at least get the puck to the front of the net. The only blemish on their night occurred when Martinook seemingly tripped allowing a Predators defenseman to work to between the circles on his backhand yet have plenty of time to maneuver to forehand before firing a shot that was tipped in or a goal by Austin Watson. Despite the goal against, I would gladly take this line’s effort and carry it forward to the next game.
Next up is a quick turnaround for a Saturday night match up against the Tampa Bay Lightning.