Predators’ power play woes continue in playoffs

Friday, April 19, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 16
By Chip Cirillo

The Predators finished the regular season with the league’s worst power play, converting just 12.9 percent. Things didn’t improve in the first three games of the playoffs as Nashville went 0 for 8.

Dallas didn’t do much better, going 1 for 9.

Game 2 hero

Nashville’s Craig Smith scored the winning goal five minutes into overtime when he fired a bouncing puck from the bottom of the left faceoff circle past goalie Ben Bishop on the near post for a 2-1 victory that evened the series at 2 Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

“We love the energy that Smitty brings, and he brings that every night,” Predators left wing Austin Watson says. “He’s always moving his feet and forechecking. He’s a dog on a bone, like we talk about. To see him just continue to work like he always does and to get rewarded for us – it was a huge goal, and good on him for continuing to work.”

Smith has reached the 20-goal mark in five of the last six seasons, including 21 this year.

Secondary scoring

Secondary scoring was a problem for the Predators during the regular season, but they got some good contributions during the first two games against Dallas.

Defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban scored Nashville’s goals in a 3-2 loss to Dallas in Game 1. Smith and Rocco Grimaldi found the back of the net in Game 2.

The Predators’ first line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg accounted for 32 percent of the team’s offense with 76 goals during the regular season.

Fabbro’s ‘bad decision’

Nashville defenseman Dante Fabbro, 20, only played four NHL games before making his playoff debut against the Stars, but Dallas coach Jim Montgomery is familiar with the former Boston University co-captain.

“Well, I know his game inside-out,” offers Montgomery, who coached the University of Denver for five years before becoming Dallas’ coach in May 2018. “I recruited him for two years at Denver. He’s an exceptional young player. He just made a bad decision on what college he went to.”

He scored his first NHL goal in a 5-2 win over Chicago in Nashville’s regular-season finale.

Opportunistic Grimaldi

Rocco Grimaldi got into Game 2 after an illness forced Brian Boyle out of the lineup.

He made the most of his opportunity by scoring the Predators’ first goal after getting a nice pass from Austin Watson, who was behind the net.

“I thought (Rocco) did an excellent job,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette says. “The shifts that he took, even between the specialty teams, I thought he was really strong. Once we did get clear of the penalties, it seemed whoever (Calle) Jarnkrok and Rocco played with, that was a good line. Rocco was a big part of it. He used his speed and his tenacity, put the puck in the right zone and pushed his speed to create.”

Urgency returns for Predators

A 30-minute lull in the middle of Game 1 hurt Nashville, but the Predators played with urgency throughout Game 2.

“No one in the league can beat us when we play desperate hockey,” Subban points out. “I think that in Game 1, they were desperate and they showed that, especially in the second period – maybe not in the first, I thought we came out the right way.

“Last game, we didn’t play a full 60 minutes. Technically in the playoffs, when you do that, you don’t deserve to win. Today, I felt that we tilted the ice.”

Big goalies square off

Nashville and Dallas both boast big goalies. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is 6-foot-5 and Dallas’ Ben Bishop is 6-7.

Both got off to good starts in the first two games of the playoffs.

Bishop had a 1.92 goals against average with a .946 save percentage. Rinne countered with a 1.97 and a .923.

Slumping Turris

The Predators are hoping Kyle Turris ends his scoring slump in the playoffs.

He broke the 20-goal mark three times with Ottawa, but the center only scored seven during the regular season.

Turris, acquired from Ottawa in a 2017 trade, didn’t score in the first two playoffs games.

Familiar face on Stars

Former Predator Alexander Radulov is Dallas’ second-leading scorer with 29 goals. The right wing had two stints with Nashville from 2006-08 and again during the 2011-12 season.

He played with Montreal for one season and has been with the Stars the past two years.

Radulov, 32, had 43 assists during the regular season.

Stars rookie shines

Dante Fabbro isn’t the only youngster in the Predators-Stars series.

Defenseman Miro Heiskanen, a 19-year-old rookie from Finland, scored two goals for Dallas in Game 1.

But the following morning the NHL credited his second goal to Radulov.

Heiskanen had 12 goals and 21 assists during the regular season.