Sissons’ hat trick, coach’s challenges lift Predators to another win

A Colton Sissons hat trick and two successful coach’s challenges were the difference for the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night as they picked up a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche, winning their fourth game in a row and improving to a league-best 12-3-0 to start the season.

Sissons was the offensive star for the Predators as he not only ended what had been a 13-game goal drought, but recorded the second regular season hat trick of his career.

Ryan Hartman added an empty net goal in the final minutes to help put the game away for the Predators.

While the final score ended up looking a little lopsided, this game could have been a lot closer had it not been for the NHL’s replay system that allowed Nashville to challenge two potential Colorado goals that were ultimately overturned.

Early in the second period Ian Cole thought he scored what would have been his second goal of the season only to have it overturned after replay showed that the puck had barely exited the zone as defender Samuel Girard tried to keep it in.

In the third period, and with the Predators leading 3-1, Colin Wilson thought he scored against his former team to cut the deficit to a single goal, only to again have the Predators challenge for offsides and again have the call overturned.

Avalanche forward Alexander Kerfoot was offside as Cole attempted to dump the puck in to the zone on the rush.

The two challenges by Nashville were bold calls by the coaching staff because had they not been overturned they would have not only given up the goal, but also been assessed a delay of game penalty for the failed offside challenge. Either way they were potential game-changing calls, and they both just so happened to go the Predators’ way.

When the Avalanche weren’t having goals overturned by review, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was playing another spectacular game by turning aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced. In his first eight appearances in 2018-19 the reigning Vezina Trophy winner has a .948 save percentage on the season.

After a great start that saw the Avalanche go 6-1-2 in their first nine games they have now lost five of their past six games and each of the past four.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Predators visit Avalanche on Wednesday Night Hockey

Getty

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

This week’s Wednesday Night Hockey doubleheader wraps up with a rematch from the first-round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Nashville Predators visit the Colorado Avalanche.

It is sure to be an exciting matchup between two top Central Division teams as the Predators roll into the game owning the league’s best points percentage (22 points in 14 game) and best goal differential (plus-17). After reaching the Stanley Cup Final two years ago and then coming back a year ago to win the Presidents’ Trophy the Predators are once again on track to be one of the best teams in the NHL and a top-tier Stanley Cup contender.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, are doing their best to show that their surprise playoff appearance (after completing an incredible one-year turnaround in the standings) was no fluke. They enter play on Wednesday in one of the two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference and just one point back of Minnesota for the second spot in the Central Division.

They boast the NHL’s third-best goal differential (plus-12) and one of the NHL’s top lines with the trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog leading the way. Rantanen entered Wednesday as the league’s leading scorer with 24 points, two points ahead of Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid. MacKinnon is third in the scoring race with 21 points while Landeskog is 12th with 18 total points. His 11 goals are tied for the second most.

Puck drop in Colorado is 10 p.m. ET.

[WATCH LIVE – 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche
Where: Pepsi Center
When: Wednesday, November 7th, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Predators-Avalanche stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PREDATORS

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenRyan Hartman
Calle JarnkrokKyle TurrisCraig Smith
Frederick GaudreauNick BoninoKevin Fiala
Zac RinaldoColton SissonsMiikka Salomaki

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Anthony BitettoYannick Weber

Starting Goalie: Pekka Rinne

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Sheldon Dries – Alexander KerfootColin Wilson
Matt NietoCarl SoderbergMatt Calvert
Gabriel BourqueVladislav KamenevMarko Dano

Patrik NemethErik Johnson
Ian ColeSamuel Girard
Nikita ZadorovTyson Barrie

Starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bennett’s rowdy fight ‘ignited’ Flames’ comeback

9 Comments

The Calgary Flames were down 4-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, when a startling bit of violence served as a catalyst for an even-more-startling 6-5 comeback win.

Ian Cole delivered a vicious hit on Mark Jankowski, who was made vulnerable thanks to a “suicide pass.” Without even a moment’s hesitation, Sam Bennett – a player who’s been lampooned for failing to manage a pull up – rushed in and absolutely pummeled Cole with a bunch of furious punches.

(Check out that quick-but-brutal fight in the video above this post’s headline.)

Bennett’s Flames teammates and head coach Bill Peters weren’t shy about giving him a ton of credit for stepping up, or in Bennett’s words, “policing” the matter.

Was it really the turning point?

Honestly, if you’re even remotely analytics-minded, it’s tempting to dismiss such discussions outright. After all, the Flames carried as many shots on goal (26) into the third period as the Avalanche ended up firing on net during the entire game. Maybe it was just a case of Calgary being “due?”

It says a lot that Bennett didn’t score a point during that surge, and was actually in the locker room for a portion of that rally.

“I was in the training room getting a little work done on my hands and missed (Elias Lindholm’s goal 47 seconds into the third),” Bennett said, via Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. “Then I started to ride the bike and keep my legs loose because I knew I wasn’t going to be out for a bit — we scored another goal there.

Another one I didn’t even see because I was in here changing, and when we scored to tie it, someone came in and yelled that we tied it up.”

There’s a counterpoint that doesn’t have to be purely primal, though.

An 82-game season is a marathon, a sometimes-grueling slog. Yes, it’s only early November, but for a team that’s been frustrated as often as Calgary has been so far, it may be tough to avoid a sense of tedium. With that in mind, is it that outrageous to wonder if such a visceral fight might like a fire under the Flames?

Real or imagined, Bennett’s Flames teammates gave him the equivalent of their player of the game honor:

This isn’t the only time Bennett’s dropped the gloves. The 22-year-old has been credited with six regular-season fights and one preseason bout, including three during the 2016-17 season, by Hockey Fights’ count.

Yes, the Flames would like Bennett to do more scoring than punching with the hands that inspired them to pick him fourth overall in 2014 (ahead of the likes of David Pastrnak, William Nylander, and Nikolaj Ehlers), yet you can’t really accuse the forward of indifference.

Especially since it’s clear he can throw a punch.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Duchene makes return to Colorado with Senators

Getty Images
3 Comments

Ottawa coming to town doesn’t normally evoke extra excitement. Then again, the Senators have never come to Denver with a former franchise player who demanded to be traded.

Friday night’s game at Pepsi Center pits Ottawa center Matt Duchene against his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, more than a year after he was dealt to the Senators in a three-team trade. Duchene was open about not wanting to be with the Avalanche when training camp started in 2017, saying he reported to the team to honor his contract.

A month later, he was with the Senators who, ironically, acquired him just before Colorado and Ottawa played a two-game set in Sweden. So this is the first time since the trade he will play in Denver, where he was an Avalanche for eight-plus seasons after being drafted third overall in the 2009 draft.

“It’s a lot of emotions, obviously,” Duchene told reporters Thursday. “It’s going to be really weird to walk into that rink. The only time I’ve been in the guest locker room is when we were doing our blood tests in training camp. It’s definitely going to be an interesting experience.

“There will be some nerves and some anxiety but once I get on the ice and just play hockey it should be a little easier.”

The Avalanche made out well, getting four players and three draft picks from the Senators and Nashville combined. One player, 20-year-old defenseman Samuel Girard, has become one of Colorado’s top blueliners.

The Avalanche (6-2-2) turned the page pretty quickly on the Duchene trade, reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years last spring. They’ve started strong this season despite suffering a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

It was the first time they had been shut out at home since March 2017, and it’s not hard to see why they’ve been able to score. The top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog has been producing points since last season. Wednesday was the first time they were held without a point this season.

Right after the loss the players were focusing on Ottawa.

“Good teams respond, so it obviously (stinks) tonight,” defenseman Ian Cole said after the loss to the Lightning. “You know, it’s a missed opportunity for us to beat a great hockey team but, like I said, we’re going to reassess, have a practice tomorrow and be ready to go come Friday night.”

Ottawa (4-3-1) is coming off a 4-1 loss to Boston but had won three straight before facing the Bruins. They are led in scoring by Thomas Chabot (three goals, seven assists) with Duchene third with eight points (one goal, seven assists).

Duchene isn’t the only player making a return to Denver. Goaltender Craig Anderson spent a year and a half with the Avalanche and backstopped them to the playoffs in 2010 when he played in a career-high 71 games. He has faced the Avalanche before, so the fans’ focus will be on Duchene.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

WATCH LIVE: Lightning visit Avalanche on NBCSN

Getty

The NBCSN Wednesday night doubleheader continues with the Colorado Avalanche hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can watch that game online by clicking here

The Lightning are no strangers to red-hot scoring lines, as they’ve deployed quite a few of their own.

There was Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and a lucky guy (usually Vladislav Namestnikov or J.T. Miller) last season. Kucherov also headlined “The Triplets” with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson.

Heading into Wednesday’s game, Stamkos and Kucherov are on different lines, yet the Lightning remain one of the most impressive teams in the NHL. Perhaps those past experiences – not to mention strong defensemen like Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh – will help them slow down an absolutely torrid Avs trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog?

That would be an impressive feat, as no one else has really had much luck doing that so far this season.

[MORE: Preview / Rantanen a driving force / MacKinnon among the best]

What: Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche
Where: Pepsi Center
When: Wednesday, October 24th, 9:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Avs-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Projected Lineups

LIGHTNING

Yanni GourdeBrayden Point — Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat — Tyler Johnson — Nikita Kucherov

Alex KillornAnthony CirelliMathieu Joseph

J.T. Miller — Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Victor Hedman — Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh — Anton Stralman

Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Sven AndrighettoAlexander KerfootColin Wilson

Matt NietoCarl SoderbergMatt Calvert

Marko DanoTyson JostGabriel Bourque

Samuel GirardErik Johnson

Ian ColeTyson Barrie

Nikita ZadorovPatrik Nemeth

Starting goalie: Semyon Varlamov

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.