For PK Subban, tonight was a homecoming of sorts. He received the, now ubiquitous, tribute video on the videoboard during the first TV timeout of the game, acknowledging the crowd and their standing ovation. But, as he told Erika Wachter on the MSG pregame show, it would be all for nothing if the Devils lost. Unfortunately, they lost to remain winless in the last five, falling to the Nashville Predators 6-4 at Bridgestone Arena.
Nico Hischier remained out as he is battling an illness still. The update on Sami Vatanen is that he played after taking a puck to the face late in last night’s game versus Chicago. Colton White and John Hayden were the Devils’ healthy scratches.
In addition to Subban returning to Nashville, Wayne Simmonds was also returning to the Music City, although he did not spend as much time there as Subban did.
The Devils were on the backend of a back-to-back while the Preds had not played since last Tuesday, a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home.
The Predators came out swinging in this one. Just 46 seconds into the game, Daniel Carr scored his first of the season when he tipped a Dan Hamhuis shot from the point by Devils starting goalie Louis Domingue.
Nashville would waste no time in doubling their lead either. At the 2:13 mark of the first, Dante Fabbro scored when Nick Bonino made a slick move around a Devils defender and then dished to Fabbro, who scored from the near faceoff circle. Craig Smith had the secondary assist.
But from there, the Devils made the comeback in a remarkable first four minutes of the game. Jesper Bratt scored at 2:45 when Vatanen, at the point, got it to Pavel Zacha at the halfwall. He passed to a trailing Bratt, who fired the pass by Nashville starting goaltender Pekka Rinne to cut the Preds’ lead in half at 2-1.
Then the full comeback at 3:59 when Blake Coleman worked along the wall, getting the puck to Nikita Gusev. He passed to Travis Zajac on the doorstep. Rinne read the play wrong and was actually falling backwards as Zajac put the puck under him and in to tie the game at two apiece.
Four goals in just under four minutes, the first time it has happened involving the Devils since February 9, 1993 against the Red Wings according to MSG.
The second period saw the Predators build up another two goal lead beginning at the 5:52 mark when Yakov Trenin scored his first NHL goal. Rocco Grimaldi had beaten the Devils in on the forecheck and grabbed the puck, he got it to Trenin, who shot. The shot would have actually gone wide of the net had it not hit a Devils’ skate in front and gone in. It was now 3-2 Nashville.
It became 4-2 at the 7:23 mark when Filip Forsberg scored. The Predators won a faceoff in the Devils’ zone and got the puck back to Roman Josi at the point. He shot and there was a scramble in front. Calle Jarnkrok touched it and Forsberg put it home with Jarnkrok getting the primary assist.
But the Devils would climb back into things again beginning when Coleman drew a tripping penalty from Forsberg while on a partial breakaway at 12:15. On the ensuing power play, Kyle Palmieri would score. At 13:07, Vatanen got the puck from the point down to Taylor Hall at the near halfwall. He passed into the slot to Palmieri, who one-timed it by Rinne to make it 4-3
The Devils ended the night 1-for-4 on the power play on a positive note. They had four power play shots and one shorthanded shot. Nashville was 0-for-6 on the man advantage with four shots as well as a pair of shots down a man.
Early in the third period, Coleman blocked a shot and left the game injured, but did return and should be set to go on Tuesday in Dallas, his hometown.
The Predators would again go up by two at 5:47 of the third when Bonino scored. Bonino shot from a weird angle, from just above the goal line, beating Domingue top shelf. Fabbro and Mattias Ekholm had the assists on the goal that made it 5-3.
But the Devils just kept hanging in. At 11:09, Jack Hughes lost the puck to a Nashville defender, then took it back. He got it on net and Hall was right there to poke home the rebound. The Devils had climbed back in to make it 5-4.
But Nashville put the final nail in their coffin when Grimaldi scored at 12:44 of the third. Grimaldi poked it free from Subban at the Preds’ blue line and was off on a breakaway, He converted to make it 6-4.
The Devils would pull Domingue with about 2:45 left in regulation, but a too many men on the ice bench minor put the kibosh on the extra attacker.
The last four meetings between these two teams at Bridgestone Arena had gone to overtime, with the Devils winning three of the four. But not tonight. Nashville pulled out the 6-4 victory.
The Devils won only 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, had 11 hits to the Preds’ nine. The teams were even in shots blocked with 13 each and giveaways with 11 each.
Damon Severson led all New Jersey skaters with 23:11 of ice time (including 3:22 shorthanded) while Zajac led the forwards with 19:05 (3:45 on the PK included).
Shots were led by Coleman with seven. Coleman also led in the hits category with three. Blocked shots saw Vatanen and Subban lead with three each. Zajac had three takeaways to lead in that column.
As mentioned, the Devils will be off to Dallas on Tuesday to take on the Stars. The Stars are a very good team and I would be extremely surprised if this is where the Devils’ winless streak comes to an end. But stranger things have happened and we will have coverage for you right here following the game, which has an 8:30 PM ET puckdrop.