If you weren’t at Bridgestone Arena watching the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames game, you should have been.

In what has to be the craziest game played this year for Nashville, the Preds and Flames duked it out at every end of the ice for 60 plus minutes. The Preds were fighting for their playoff lives, and the Flames were trying to prove their status as Stanley Cup contenders.

Despite the Preds not being able to beat the Flames, they still managed to clinch the playoffs (more on that later). But the game itself was so mesmerizing, it would be poor journalism to gloss over the event as it happened.

Here’s the eight craziest moments from last night.

Matt Duchene & Matthew Tkachuk try to kill each other

Here we go!

With three minutes to go in the 1st period, and right after Tanner Jeannot fought Erik Gudbranson, Matt Duchene and Matthew Tkachuk absolutely lost it before a face-off.

On the replay you can clearly see Tkachuk hit Duchene in the face with his stick. Duchene then retaliated with a stick to Tkachuk’s groin. A melee ensued on the ice.

When the dust cleared, Duchene was assessed slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, while Tkachuk only got one penalty for a high stick. Somehow the Flames ended up with a power play, though it was clear Tkachuk was the aggressor. Duchene likely got the second penalty for saying something he shouldn’t have to the refs.

This moment happened after a relatively calm first 17 minutes of the game. It set the stage for the rest of the party.

Roman Josi destroyed a puck for his 22nd goal; now at 93 points

Five minutes into the 2nd period, with angry energy still lingering in the air following the Duchene-Tkhacuk fracas, Roman Josi stepped into the high slot and absolutely murdered a puck.

Puck: dead. Game: tied.

Seriously, that might be the hardest I’ve ever seen Roman Josi hit the puck.

That lit a fire under the fans at Bridgestone Arena, throwing more fuel on the fire of an already raucous atmosphere.

Oh and also Roman Josi finished the night with 93 points, the highest total for an NHL defenseman since 1993. He has two more games to try and reach 100.

Matt Duchene secures Gordie Howe Hat Trick

If you don’t know, a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, assist, and a fight in one game.

Technically, Duchene’s fight with Tkachuk didn’t go down in the book as a fight (i.e., he didn’t earn a fighting major) but anyone who was there saw the truth. Duchene fought Tkachuk pretty hard. He also went after Milan Lucic later in the game.

Duchene’s only goal came less than three minutes after Josi’s goal. Mikael Granlund created some space in the zone and sent a puck towards the net, which then caromed off a Calgary defenseman. The puck fell right to Duchene’s stick, who buried it for his 42nd goal of the year.

Later in the game, Duchene sent an incredible cross-ice pass to Filip Forsberg on the power play. Forsberg buried his 41st goal of the year, securing the assist and the Gordie Howe hat trick for Duchene.

That goal by Forsberg put the Preds up 3-2, but there was much more action to come.

George Kittle screams into the void

You probably already know this, but San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and Filip Forsberg are good buddies. Kittle attends a ton of Preds games and is often seen in the tunnels of Bridgestone Arena waiting for his friend after the game.

Anyway, Kittle was there last night. And when the jumbo screen revealed his presence, he let out a primal scream to please the Bridgestone faithful.

Mere seconds after George Kittle screamed into the void, Matt Duchene scored to give the Preds a lead.

Juuse Saros injury shocks Preds, crowd

Later in the game, after the Preds had again regained the lead, this time on another Filip Forsberg power play goal, it looked like Nashville was going to skate to victory.

But then disaster struck.


First, with about six and a half minutes left in the 3rd, Juuse Saros suddenly limped off the ice. He needed help walking down the tunnel to the Preds locker room with an apparent injury.

Television broadcast initially did not show an obvious play that led to the injury, but it seems to have come during this moment:

An absolutely shocking moment for everyone watching. Juuse Saros, the Preds’ top goaltender, leaving the game for an injury is not something anyone saw coming.

There will be more to write about regarding the Saros injury. As of now, we know nothing; John Hynes said he would be evaluated this week, but had no further update after the game. We will save Nashville’s goalie replacement options for when we know more about Saros.

Meanwhile, David Rittich had to step in cold and try his best to preserve the narrow one goal lead.

It didn’t go well.

Flames tie the game with one tenth of a second left

Calgary scores a lot of goals. They are very good at it. As of today, they rank 6th in the NHL in scoring at 3.60 goals per game.

But I don’t think anyone expected Calgary to score with exactly 0.1 seconds left on the clock to tie the game.

The Flames were bearing down, perhaps knowing that a cold, backup goalie had entered the game with only a one goal lead. They flooded the Nashville zone with shots, changing the angle, pressing the Preds’ defense back on their heels. The Preds had no counter attack at this point, they were just trying to withstand the barrage.

Which they did, up until the last tenth of a second.

A Calgary shot found its way into the smallest of holes between Rittich’s pad and the goal post, tying the game and effectively sending it to overtime.

And who tied the game?

Public enemy #1, Matthew Tkachuk, of course.

Rittich gets beat for game winner in OT

Honestly, considering the situation, David Rittich played well. Anytime a goalie has to come in cold into a heated contest, you never know what you are going to get.

Rittich made three saves in the eight minutes he played, including a fantastic stop on Rasmus Andersson at the 3:07 mark of overtime. Johnny Gaudreau fed a pass to Andersson in slot and Rittich held strong with a left pad save.

But seven seconds later, Elias Lindholm sent what looked like a harmless shot on Rittich from the circle and Rittich bobbled it. The puck dribbled through Rittich’s pads and crawled over the goal line, winning the game for Calgary.

That single play will be analyzed by plenty of hockey critics, not for what it says about how the Preds should have won the game, but about what the prospects of Nashville look like in the playoffs without Juuse Saros (should it come to that). Rittich is an average backup, but probably cannot be relied upon for a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Vegas & Dallas scoreboard watching

While all of this action at Bridgestone was boiling over, everyone was also keeping an eye on the Vegas and Dallas game.

The playoff clinching scenarios were pretty simple: a win by Nashville in regulation OR anything other than a regulation win by Vegas would clinch the playoffs for the Preds.

But Vegas wasn’t making it easy.

Immediately after Calgary took a lead in the 1st period, Vegas took the lead on Dallas. Then when Roman Josi tied it up, so did Dallas. Later, in Nashville, with the game knotted 3-3 in the 3rd, Dallas and Vegas were all tied up 2-2.

There were a total of five lead changes in Nashville between the Preds and Flames, and a total of three in Dallas between the Stars and Golden Knights. Eight lead changes in only a few hours between three teams with their playoff fates inextricably wound together.

It made for an incredible night of sports that ended with the Nashville Predators earning their 8th consecutive trip to the playoffs. By virtue of the Stars beating the Golden Knights in a six round shootout, Vegas is knocked out of the playoffs and the Preds clinch it.

The only remaining piece of the puzzle is who the Preds will play. Their magic number to clinch the top wildcard spot is four points. If they do so, they will play the Calgary Flames in the first round. If they don’t, they’ll have the Colorado Avalanche.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —