The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped their second preseason game to Nashville in as many nights, losing 5-2 on the road. After falling behind 4-0 within the first 25 minutes, the Lightning finally showed signs of life in the second period. Vladislav Namestnikov capitalized on Tampa Bay’s first power play with a goal, and J.T. Brown redirected Jeff Tambellini’s pass past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne from the crease to cut the Predators’ lead in half midway through the second. Nashville’s Colton Sissons put the game out of reach, however, scoring on the power play with 2:13 to go to account for the final score. With the loss, the Lightning are now 0-1-1 two games into the seven-game preseason. Here are some observations from a frustrating night in Nashville.
* With Tampa Bay and Nashville playing each other twice in two nights, Wednesday’s second half of a home-and-home had the potential to get chippy, especially when considering the hit Cedric Paquette put Tuesday on Nashville’s Yakov Trenin, which ignited a fight between Paquette and Ryan Ellis.
The hitting between both teams picked up significantly a day later at Bridgestone Arena, but it was the officials who took the brunt of the damage.
Twice in the game’s first 15 minutes, an official was sandwiched along the boards between a pair of opposing players looking to lay a big lick on the other.
Later, with 3:31 left in the second, linesman Derek Amell got crunched into the wall near the penalty boxes, necessitating a stoppage of play while Amell picked himself up off the ice.
In all, both teams accumulated 50 penalty minutes combined. Nashville went 2-for-10 on the power play; Tampa Bay was 1-for-8.
“We had a lot younger group out there tonight, so usually when that happens, you’ve got guys flying around there with something to prove,” said Lightning goalie Allen York, who came into the game midway through the second period to replace Adam Wilcox in a planned move to get both goalies equal time. “I think (Nashville) pushed back whenever we pushed, and it was a good game.”
* Nashville has a stage set up behind one of the goals in the stands. During intermissions, a band comes out and plays a mix of classic rock and country hits for the duration of the break. It’s a welcome change from the sometimes cheesy promotional games most teams use to entertain fans between periods and is something you’d expect from a place called Music City.
* Vladislav Namestnikov, along with Jonathan Drouin, was a youngster singled out by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman as someone expected to have an expanded role in the Bolts plans this season.
Namestnikov split time between Tampa Bay and Syracuse last season but did manage to get into 43 regular season games and 12 postseason contests for the Bolts, scoring nine goals and recording eight assists. He was also selected to play in the AHL All-Star game for his play with the Crunch.
On Wednesday, with the Lightning deep in a 4-0 hole, the Bolts’ 2011 first-round draft pick (27th overall) put his team on the board and back in the game by jamming home a rebound – Tampa Bay’s third shot in quick succession – on the back post.
Namestnikov centered a line with Matthew Peca on his left and Jonathan Marchessault to the right and played more minutes (17:35) than any other Lightning forward. He’ll likely get a few more minutes than most this preseason and rotate with a number of different line combinations to find his best fit on this year’s squad.
* Things that remind you you’re in the south when watching a hockey game in Nashville:
- One of the Zambonis is sponsored by Remington
- Nashville’s mascot Gnash comes out onto the ice on a 4-wheeler
- What sounds like a duck call randomly quacks from somewhere in the upper deck during the game.
- Tim McGraw’s I like it, I love it plays when the Predators score a goal.
* Allen York entered in a difficult situation with the Lightning trailing 4-1, but the 26-year-old gave his team a chance to get back in the game by shutting out the Predators for nearly his entire 30-plus minutes on the ice.
Only a late Nashville power-play goal prevented York from a perfect outing.
“I thought I did a pretty good job controlling what I could control, rebounds, things like that,” York said. “The one goal, it was too bad. I couldn’t pick it up. It just kind of fell off me, and the guy tapped it in. Overall, I was happy with it.”
York only faced nine shots while Wilcox saw 21. York said he’d rather those numbers were reversed.
“I think as a goalie, especially in a camp situation, you want the rubber,” he said. “You don’t want half the game where you only get like five or six shots.”
Wilcox, meanwhile, was pressed into action early, having to make two difficult stops in the game’s first 30 seconds. Despite giving up seven goals (including a 3-on-3 overtime score Tuesday) in a little more than a game’s worth of action over the past two days, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the University of Minnesota product had nothing to hang his head about.
“I thought he did pretty well,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, he starts in a game where we’re on the road, we’ve got a lot of new guys in the lineup and it was a little bit scrambly.”
* An inflatable sabre-tooth tiger head is lowered down to the ice for Nashville’s players to skate out of before the game, a setup much like the one San Jose uses where players come out of a shark’s mouth onto the ice. When the sabre-tooth head is raised back up into the rafters, it looks like a giant molar hanging above the rink.
* Wednesday’s game featured a 3-on-3 overtime component -- regardless of the score after regulation -- to give coaches and players a first-hand look at the NHL’s new overtime procedure.
The Lightning sent Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Nesterov onto the ice to start before Nesterov went to the bench for Nikita Kucherov a few seconds into the extra frame. Johnson just missed connecting with Palat on a two-on-one, his cross-crease pass from deep in the zone inches out of the reach of the onrushing Palat.
Later, Johnson got the puck well behind the Nashville defense on a breakaway and slotted a forehand shot past Rinne to end the overtime session.
“Right before we scored that goal, (Nashville) had a glorious chance,” Cooper said. “Three-on-three, you’re basically trading chances.”
Johnson, who showed no ill effects from the wrist injury that hampered him during the Stanley Cup Final in his return to the ice, said he was in favor of the new overtime format.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s definitely chaotic. I think that’s really the only word to describe it. Regardless, I still like it better than shootouts.”