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Here’s What Went Wrong In Predators’ Game 3 Loss To Canucks



Ryan McDonagh
Photo of Juuse Saros courtesy of the Nashville Predators

Based on how Games 1-3 have gone, it’s likely every game in the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks will come down to the wire.

Despite Nashville besting Vancouver in nearly every statistical category — it held the edge in shots (30-12), scoring chances (33-18), hits (32-25) and expected goals for (2.38 to 1.14) — the Canucks pulled out a 2-1 Game 3 win Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.

“The margins are tiny on both sides of the puck,” Predators coach Andrew Brunette said. “I think it’s a tightly-contested, low-event kind of hockey and we’ve played that a lot this year, and we kind of relish it. We just didn’t get rewarded tonight.”

Here’s a recap of exactly what went wrong in Nashville’s Game 3 loss.

— The power(less) play

For as good as the Predators power play was after the Al-Star break (27.2%, second-best in NHL during that stretch), they’ve been equally as awful in the postseason.

Nashville went 0-for-5 on the man advantage in Friday’s loss, and it’s now 1-for-13 on power-play chances in the postseason. Vancouver sealed off shooting lanes, took away space, disrupted the Predators’ rhythm and didn’t let them get set up at any point. Nashville mustered just four shots on its five PP opportunities.

“They’re playing really tight in the middle and blocking a ton of shots,” Luke Evangelista said. “If we just find ways to get more pucks to the net and outnumber them at the net, it looks like it’s going to have to be a greasy one. Give them credit, they’re committed to blocking shots, but if we can just get [the puck] there and jam away, I think we’ll give ourselves a good shot [to score].”

Added Filip Forsberg: “I think we’re moving a little slow. … They’ve got some big fellas back there blocking a lot of shots, and I think we’ve got to try to move it a lot quicker and have a little better execution.”

— Casey DeSmith had it easy

Likely facing Vancouver’s backup goaltender for the rest of the series, the Predators haven’t exactly made life hard for DeSmith, who’s stopped 41 of the 45 shots he’s faced in Games 2 and 3.

DeSmith had a 2.3 expected goals against in Friday’s matchup but surrendered just one. He had 10 puck freezes, only gave up two rebounds, and the Predators simply couldn’t create any second-chance shots. Additionally, Nashville’s shot selection was erratic. Eighteen of its 30 shots on goal were long-range attempts, and only seven were from the slot.

Losing Spencer Stastney for half the game

After getting boarded by Dakota Joshua early in the first period, Stastney left for a bit, came back, took a few more shifts and left for good in the middle of the second period. Joshua was assessed a major penalty which was later changed to a minor, and the Predators were given no indication why.

Playing half the game down their fastest skater wasn’t the reason the Predators lost, but it certainly factored into the outcome.

Because Stastney played just 6:36, Brunette had to double-shift his best defensemen, leading to 30:31 of ice time for Roman Josi and 25:00 of ice time for Ryan McDonagh.

— Canucks are baiting Predators into playing their game

Vancouver is clearly the bigger, stronger and more physical team, and Nashville is playing right into that strength. Brunette has said several times it’s going to be a muddy series and his players are committed to the pain, but three games in, that philosophy simply isn’t working.

The Predators hit their stride and found their success in the regular season by out-hustling and grinding their opponents down. They were one of, if not the best third-period team in the NHL from Valentine’s Day on, and against the Canucks they’ve seemingly abandoned the style of play that got them to the postseason.

The system Nashville plays is a taxing one. It’s designed to aggressively attack the puck and force the opposition to play on its heels. The issue, however, is Vancouver plays a similar game, is just a step better in nearly every facet, and they’re taking the fight to the Predators rather than the other way around (they’ve outhit Nashville 113 to 97 and forced 18 turnovers through three games).

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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