Chris Mason vs. Jason LaBarbera
Nashville starts out with the new combo of Vern Fiddler/Radek Bonk/Jed Ortmeyer, which goes right to work on the dump & chase, getting a good couple of whacks at a rebound off a Greg de Vries shot. The other new line (Martin Gelinas/Jason Arnott/J.P. Dumont) follows next but fails to make much noise.
L.A.'s first good shot comes off a sloppy giveaway in the Nashville zone. de Vries (who's had a very rough time the last couple weeks) came around behind the net and his pass ended up on a Kings defenseman's hockey stick, which led to a strong shot and rebound opportunity.
Mason has coughed up plenty of juicy rebounds lately, and another one at the 14:12 mark almost results in an L.A. goal, but Patrick O'Sullivan puts the shot wide.
Blech! The Predators catch a bad break, as Mike Cammelleri bangs home a loose puck after a point shot from Rob Blake to put the Kings up 1-0. Blake's shot actually hit Dan Hamhuis's stick about 10 feet in front of Mason, who was going down to make the save. Cammelleri immediately picked it up as he was crossing in front and had a wide open goal to hit. When you're in the middle of a losing streak, these are the kinds of goals that just make you roll your eyes.
After dominating the first periods in Anaheim and San Jose, Nashville looks comparatively sloppy tonight. The offensive chances are few and far between, as Darcy Hordichuk throws a hit or two but nothing much comes of it. They yield another dangerous chance when Mason plays the puck off the boards to his left and misses his d-man, after which Kyle Calder scoops up the freebie and soars in close for a stuff attempt that Mason stops. At this point the graphic shows L.A. with 7 scoring chances, Nashville with 1.
One positive so far is the play of Greg Zanon, a classic battler. Whether it's going down on the ice to block a centering pass, jumping to knock a puck with his glove out of the zone, or diving to poke a loose puck past a Kings forward, he puts in a gritty effort to defend his turf.
After getting hemmed in their own zone for an entire shift, Lubomir Visnovsky bangs home a long shot to open a 2-0 lead with 4:20 left in the 1st. Another bad break for the Preds here as Ladislav Nagy was maneuvering through the slot and just lost the puck off his stick, which Visnovsky then stepped into for the shot. Mason is visibly upset immediately after the goal, perhaps due to screening in front (there were three bodies between him and the shot, two of them Predators). Nashville certainly looks pretty awful at this point.
For a few moments, the Preds appear sprung into action as Erat and Radulov go to work feverishly in the L.A. end. There is definitely some bad mojo working here, however, as after Jason Arnott puts a shot on net A-Rad scoops up a juicy rebound, but gets the puck caught in his feet and can't get the shot off before getting smoked by Raitis Ivanans. The frustrating thing is that on the few occasions he's had to play the puck, LaBarbera has looked shaky, but Nashville can't buy a goal right now.
The period ends with L.A. outshooting Nashville 14-4, and taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
The Legwand line opens things up and clangs a quick shot off the post - hey, that counts for progress given how things have gone so far. Ryan Suter sneaks a long shot through and J.P. Dumont is in position for the rebound, but LaBarbera covers that up.
Nashville finally starts getting some possession in the L.A. zone; not much in terms of shots, but possession nonetheless. Martin Gelinas looks like his left hand might have gotten hurt, as Brad Stuart was allowed to take multiple whacks at his hand as he carried the puck along the boards. I'm not sure how a Slashing call wasn't made, as the refs were looking right at him the whole time.
Alright, this is getting ridiculous - Gelinas does head back to the dressing room, but not because of the hand. As he came to the bench, the butt end of another player's stick catches him in the eye. The Halloween ghosts & goblins are really going to work on this team.
Countless TV sets get turned off in Nashville moments later as Ivanans pounds home a crease-crossing pass to make it 3-0 L.A. Derek Armstrong drove down the right wing as Zanon simply hung on for dear life (trying not to take a penalty, he simply coasted alongside rather than taking the body), and while Ortmeyer picked up John Zeiler who was trailing the play, nobody had Ivanans covered on the far side and Mason had no chance to make the save.
After taking the initiative in the early minutes of the 2nd, Nashville appears back on their heels once again. L.A. gets a 3-on-1 opportunity that Dan Hamhuis breaks up nicely, and things open up both ways for a minute or so. J.P. Dumont gets in behind the defense but Visnovsky prevents his shot, and the Preds get a 3-on-1 of their own that Blake stops. Legwand then gets whistled for holding behind the Nashville net, so it's time to put that hot L.A. power play up against the Predators penalty kill.
Well, at least that didn't last long; 23 seconds into the power play Alexander Frolov picks up a rebound out near the right faceoff dot and bangs it past Mason to make it 4-0 at the halfway point of the game. The Kings took a simple approach, with one guy at the blue line, three laterally across the middle of the zone, and one in front of the net. The initial shot came from one side, and the rebound kicked out the opposite way, so Frolov had plenty of empty space to shoot at.
And here comes Dan Ellis into goal for Nashville. Mason yielded 4 goals on 18 shots, and I'm guessing that Pete & Terry won't be doing the usual interview with the bench goalie in the 3rd period.
At this point the Preds just have to focus on scoring the next goal. An opportunity presents itself when Jaroslav Modry gets called for sending the puck over the glass, putting Nashville on the power play. Trotz sends out a four-forward lineup of Arnott/Legwand/Erat/Dumont/Hamhuis, and they just seem out of sorts and disorganized. Entry passes roll off sticks loosely into the zone, players go offside, there's little space to move the puck around, etc. The two minutes pass without a shot on goal for Nashville, and the Kings go right back on the attack after Modry comes out of the box.
What so laughably sad about this game is that if the Predators could only generate some chances, they'd be likely to cash in. When shots do get fired, LaBarbera often seems unaware as to where it goes.
The 2nd period ends with a 4-0 score, and the Predators looking like they can't wait to get out of town. If Coach Trotz is worth a dime of his salary, he'll yell himself hoarse in that locker room to at least see if this team has any fight left for the third.
Jed Ortmeyer moves up alongside Arnott & Dumont on the top line, and I can't remember seeing Gelinas since he went to the dressing room early in the 2nd. Jerred Smithson gets called for Holding which puts L.A. on the power play, and Dustin Brown gets a back-door slam opportunity, but Dan Ellis holds his ground.
Later in the penalty kill, Martin Erat chases down a loose puck in the L.A. zone, but can't make anything come of it and takes a limp-wristed overhand whack at the Kings player who skates off onto the attack. That about sums up the question of whether there's any fight left in the Predators tonight, and the answer seems to be a resounding "No".
Nagy piles on to make it 5-0 Kings, as he outmuscles Marek Zidlicky in front of the net to get a couple whacks that lift the puck over Ellis's shoulder and in.
If getting pounded on the scoreboard wasn't enough to fire up Nashville's pride, perhaps John Zeiler might have done the job. On a routine play as the puck headed towards the boards, he ran Greg Zanon and Vern Fiddler went right after him. The scrap was pretty much a clinch between the two along the L.A. bench, but at least one of the Predators finally stood up. Besides the coincidental fighting majors, Fiddler gets an extra two for interference (?), and there's no charging call on Zeiler, so the Preds go back on the penalty kill. At this point it doesn't matter, but that's a mystifying call. At least Fiddler's contributing some PIM's to my fantasy hockey team, since Arnott & Zidlicky aren't doing squat.
At this point I'm wondering whether Trotz has lost this team (more on that in the next day or two). By now, everyone's just wishing for the clock to speed up. Greg de Vries gets the puck stripped away from him which leads to a scoring chance for Visnovsky coming down the slot, and while Ellis makes the save they have to haul the Kings defenseman down, so yes, it's time for another penalty kill.
Nashville kills of the abbreviated 4-on-3 PP (there were coincidental minors previously), but when it switches to 5-on-4 Mike Cammelleri chips in his 10th goal of the year on a wide-open backdoor feed which pushes the score to 6-0 Kings.
That's the final, and honestly I can't believe I stayed up for the whole thing. More commentary to come tomorrow, for sure. There's simply no sugar-coating tonight's loss; after opening the season with two strong victories the Predators have tanked horribly over the last two weeks.