December holds a challenging schedule for the Nashville Predators, and tonight they kicked off their end of the year hockey gauntlet against the New Jersey Devils.
Ryan Johansen shocked everyone just :11 seconds in but putting away his own rebound off the opening shot of the game giving Nashville a quick 1-0 lead.
The Devils picked up the pace after Nashville's initial goal. New Jersey showed their offensive speed and pressured with extended zone time and a breakaway chance, but Saros handled the shots he faced solidly.
Ryan McDonagh headed to the penalty box at 5:07 for a high stick giving the Devils their first power play opportunity. Saros was helped out on a quick shot by Tanner Jeannot's stick to keep the Devils off the scoreboard, and the teams returned to five a side.
Colton Sissons won an offensive zone faceoff and lifted the puck past Vanecek from the slot just seconds later to give Nashville a 2-0 lead with less than a minute in the first.
The Devils came out fast once again in the second period. Kevin Bahl snuck into the high slot to receive a pass from Jack Hughes and send the puck past Saros at 1:57. Just seconds later, Filip Forsberg went to the penalty box for a tripping call. Twenty seconds into the man advantage, Devils forward Jesper Bratt scored the tying goal.
The Predators responded with extended offensive zone time and a handful of shots, but couldn't break through. Dante Fabbro was called for a hook as he interrupted a breakaway chance. Alexander Holtz gave New Jersey the lead at 4:35 on the man advantage.
The Predators finally slowed down the New Jersey's momentum after the three quick early goals. Nashville amassed offensive zone time, but weren't able to score in the second period. The teams headed into the second intermission with a score of 3-2.
Dawson Mercer kicked off the third period with a breakaway chance, but Juuse Saros stayed with the play and made an early save. The teams went back and forth until Mark Jankowski's stick tripped up a Devils player and gave New Jersey another power play chance.
Mercer had a point blank chance on the power play but Saros frustrated him for the second time in the period. Nashville's kill ended the power play with no harm done this time.
The Predators increased their own offensive pressure halfway through the final period. Nashville finally earned their first chance on the power play with 6:51 remaining when Dougie Hamilton interfered with Filip Forsberg.
Hischier had the most dangerous chance on the Preds' power play with a breakaway chance, but again Saros bailed out the Predators. Nashville had a last minute chance on the power play, but the teams returned to five a side.
Saros made another timely save as time wound down after losing his stick and faced a point blank slot shot again. Nashville committed a costly mistake with just 2:46 left in the one goal game when they were caught with too many men on the ice.
The Devils played the puck around the perimeter to take valuable time off the clock. The power play expired, and Nashville pulled Saros to add an extra attacker. With just 8.4 seconds remaining, Mikael Granlund scooped up the puck in front of the net and tucks it past Vanecek.
Overtime ended quickly as Matt Duchene's pursuit of the puck gave Nashville possession in the offensive zone and Ryan Johansen scored the game winning goal.
1. Juuse Saros kept Nashville in this game. New Jersey's fast and furious roster gives any goaltender all they can handle, but Saros did a good job shutting down several high danger chances to keep this game in reach.
2. A regulation hockey game is sixty full minutes. Nashville committed some costly early second period lapses, but they didn't give up and tied the game with 8.4 seconds.
3. The Devils are the real deal. This was Nashville's first chance to see New Jersey in action this season, and it was evident early on that the top team in the Metropolitan Division lives up to their reputation as a fast, complete team.