Forsberg, Preds beat Avs 5-2 as both teams battle COVID
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Filip Forsberg had two goals and an assist and the Nashville Predators beat the streaking Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Thursday night in a game between rosters wrecked by COVID-19 outbreaks.
Tanner Jeannot scored and added an assist, and Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm also scored. Juuse Saros made 24 saves to help Nashville extended its season-best winning streak to six games. Colton Sissons had three assists.
“I think that just proves the depth of this organization,” Forsberg said. “Obviously, we’re missing some key players. But guys are stepping up, not just from Milwaukee, but in the lineup as well.”
Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist, and Valeri Nichushkin also scored for Colorado. Pavel Francouz made 30 saves as the Avs ended a five-game winning streak.
“We came to play a hockey game here,” Rantanen said. “Obviously, it was kind of questions in the air during the day because guys were dropping. But we had enough guys to play a hockey game and that’s what we did.”
Both teams were missing players placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Colorado lost Cale Makar shortly before faceoff and used just 16 skaters — two fewer than normal. The Avs also dressed an emergency backup goaltender. Nashville had seven players sidelined by the protocols.
“For anyone, just the whole day and then even before the game, there’s new news of Colorado players not playing,” Josi said. “It just seemed like one after another. It was weird. We were just kind of sitting there. It was kind out of our control, but I don’t think any one of us ever went through something like that.”
The Avalanche were given the option of not playing the game.
“I just went to our players and said, ‘Hey what do you guys want to do?’ Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “Like I said, we’re here to play a game. They were short-handed, we were short-handed. We’re not using COVID as an excuse.”
Forsberg scored first at 13:23 of the opening period with a wrist shot from the right point through traffic that beat Francouz on the short side. Francouz saw his first NHL action since March 11, 2020, after sustaining hip and ankle injuries.
“I felt pretty good,” Francouz said. “They had some shots in the start, which helped me just get the feeling, get into the game.”
Nashville made it 2-0 at 7:21 of the second on Jeannot’s power-play goal. Colorado’s Rantanen answered with a power-play goal at 9:57 of the second.
Forsberg struck again at 16:48 of the second. The Avalanche drew within a goal at 9:12 of the third when Nichushkin scored just after a Colorado power play expired, but Josi’s man-advantage goal at 12:19 of the third restored Nashville’s two-goal lead. Ekholm’s empty-net goal with just over a minute remaining capped the scoring.
NEW FACES BEHIND THE BENCH
With Nashville’s entire coaching staff on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list along with seven players, the Predators had to take the unusual step of recalling both players and coaches from Milwaukee of the AHL on Thursday. Admirals coach Karl Taylor and assistant Scott Ford were behind the Nashville bench and were joined by Predators assistant general manager Scott Nichol.
Avalanche: Host Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Predators: At Chicago on Friday night.