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

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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

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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.

Predators, Rinne sign two-year, $10 million extension

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It appears that Pekka Rinne will finish his career in the place it started.

The Nashville Predators locked up the 36-year-old netminder on a two-year extension, a lead that will pay him $10 million over its course ($6 million in 2019-20, $4 million in 2020-21). Rinne was drafted by the Preds in the eighth round in 2004. Since then, he’s become the club’s franchise leader in too many records to count.

Not a bad birthday present, again.

Essentially, Rinne takes a hometown discount here. His annual average value will drop from $7 million to $5 million beginning next year, dropping him outside the top 10 highest paid goalies. This is important and we will get to it in a second.

“Pekka Rinne has been the most impactful player our franchise has ever had, both on the ice as one of the NHL’s best goaltenders, and off the ice as a leader in the community,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “Both the organization and Pekka want him to play his entire career with the Predators, and this helps accomplish that objective, while also stabilizing our goaltending for at least the next two seasons beyond 2018-19. We feel the tandem of Pekka and Juuse Saros is among the best in the League.”

The move might seem quizzical at first glance. The Preds have been grooming Saros as Rinne’s heir-apparent for a while now, so why give Rinne another big-money extension while limiting Saros’ role over the next couple of seasons?

Saros was impressive in his stint as a starter this season with Rinne out with an injury. In eight games (five of which he started in Rinne’s absence) Saros has posted a 6-2-0 record with a .917 save percentage.

The thing is, you can’t just let Rinne go while he’s still on top of his game. He won the Vezina for the first time in his career last season and despite his injury, has the second-best five-on-five save percentage in the league at .961 and owns a 4-1-0 record.

Skeptics will point to his playoff performance last season, including his Game 7 debacle in the second round against Winnipeg, and that’s fair game. Rinne was disastrous, falling from his .927 regular season save percentage mark to .904 in the postseason, including a dreadful .848 in home games.

Perhaps the playoffs were just a blip on the radar. Rinne hasn’t shown any ill-effects stemming from it. It seems Nashville is comfortable with how Rinne has rebounded after putting all the blame on his own shoulders following their playoff exit.

What Poile has engineered here, then, is quite clever. Rinne and Saros (whose cap hit is $1.5 million for the next three seasons) will make a combined $6.5 million, $500,000 less than Rinne is making this year.

Given that the Preds are already counting $69 million toward the cap next year, it’s pretty brilliant that they can keep arguably the best one-two punch between the pipes for a while more.

There’s little risk here. There’s no lengthy term, the money is right and there’s more time to ease Saros into the starter’s role, which is ultimately good for the future of the franchise.

Nashville’s attention now needs to turn to defenseman Roman Josi, who will be looking for a big money extension. The Preds will also have Kevin Fiala, Ryan Hartman and Colton Sissons as restricted-free agents at the end of this season.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Point’s five-point night; Hutton’s thievery

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Three Stars

1. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning

A career-high five-point night and a dominant 8-3 win for his Lightning… we think Point will be more than happy with how things turned out. Point put the Lightning up 3-1 in the first period and assisted on four other goals in the game. Point now leads the Lightning with seven goals and 14 points in 11 games — three more than Nikita Kucherov and six more than Steven Stamkos.

2. Ryan Hartman, Nashville Predators

Hartman’s first 21 games with the Preds last season was lackluster at best. His playoffs weren’t that stellar either, not what you’d want from a guy you spent a first-round pick to get. Through 12 games now in his first full season with Nashville, Hartman seems to be hitting his stride.  The 24-year-old scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 4-1 win for the Predators on Tuesday. He now has six points in those 12 games, matching the total he had in 21 with Nashville last season.

3. Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders

Eberle scored twice in 1:53 in the second period, including the game-winner, as the Islanders doubled up the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3. The Islanders have been a thorn in the side of Metropolitan rivals as of late, winning three straight and outscoring them 14-5 during that time. Eberle has four points in his past four games, including three goals.

Highlights of the night

Paddle saves are the best saves

The John Tortorella silent treatment

You can’t defend against this:

The best move/save combination of the night belongs to Viktor Arvidsson and Malcolm Subban:

Blunder of the night

No debate here:

Factoids

Scores

Flames 2, Sabres 1 (OT)

Islanders 6, Penguins 3

Bruins 3, Hurricanes 2

Red Wings 5, Blue Jackets 3

Stars 4, Canadiens 1

Lightning 8, Devils 3

Predators 4, Golden Knights 1

Wild 4, Oilers 3

Flyers 3, Ducks 2

Coyotes 5, Senators 1

Rangers 4, Sharks 3 (SO)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Hartman’s brace keeps Predators atop NHL summit

The Vegas Golden Knights recent resurgence hit a bump in the road on Tuesday night in Nashville.

Coming into Tuesday’s game on NBCSN, Vegas had cobbled together a 4-1-1 record in the previous six outings to turn around a shaky start to the season.

But few teams have bested the Predators this season and Vegas wasn’t going to be one of them in a 4-1 Nashville win.

Predators goalie Juuse Saros was thrown into a starting role earlier this month after Pekka Rinne went down with injury and had performed admirably entering Tuesday.

Saros helped Nashville weather the first-period storm, turning aside 12-of-13 shots while the Predators could only muster five.

With an intermission to right the ship, Nashville reappeared as a different team in the second — a more normal version of themselves.

Ryan Hartman led the way, scoring twice in 57 seconds to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Hartman’s two goals were his first multi-goal game for the Predators since joining them from Chicago last season. Hartman had six points in 21 games with the Predators to finish off the regular season last year.

In 12 games this year, he’s already equaled that mark with three goals and three assists.

The Golden Knights came into Tuesday tied for 29th in the league in goals-for per game, a goal-and-a-half off their torrid pace to start the season last year. Luck hasn’t been on their side so far this season, and that low scoring number didn’t receive a boost in their loss to Nashville.

Vegas came out of the starting gates with purpose and the feverish start was rewarded when Reilly Smith notched his third of the season on the power play.

But the Golden Knights’ side of the jumbotron didn’t see any further action for the rest of the night as Nashville would respond with four unanswered goals.

The Predators continue to rule the roost with a 9-3-0 record.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck