It wasn’t the best welcome back party for Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne on Thursday. In front of a sellout crowd, the Predators snapped their nine-game home winning streak with a 5-2 loss to the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks. It took some time for Nashville to get their feet moving after allowing a shorthanded goal early on in the first. Going into the first intermission, the message was simple from head coach Peter Laviolette.
“Just keep playing, keep shooting the puck and going to the net,” said Nystrom on what Laviolette’s intermission instructions were. “We’ve seen some crazy games this year and leads disappear and crazy stuff happens. We’ve come from behind plenty of times this year, we just have to sharpen up our game. It’s a little disappointing in a game like that that we couldn’t play our best, but we have another game here to look forward to coming up.”
Nashville started off the second period with a string of penalties, one held over from the first. They had to fight off two five-on-three opportunities, and did so very well. The penalty kill remains strong, but as the Anaheim power play expired, Matt Belesky notched his 20th goal of the season.
“It’s just frustrating that they scored at the end of that last one,” said Nystrom. “The penalty kill has been really solid. It was a nice play the kid made, an outside move to the inside and had the vision to see that late guy in there. It was a nice play.”
It wasn’t until four minutes into the third that the Predators began to really show signs of life. Colin Wilson slapped in a rebound from a Victor Bartley shot to finally get Nashville on the board. Later on in the third, James Neal tallied a goal on the power play to put the Predators within two, but it wasn’t enough as Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen made save after save, for a total of 44 on 46 shots.
“He played well,” said Nystrom on Andersen. “I think we ended up with 46 shots, save 44 of them, and couple of them were pretty nice saves in key situations. He’s a big guy and a solid goalie. He played real well.”
In a last ditch effort to tie the game, Pekka Rinne was pulled first at the four-minute mark. Nashville held the zone, and just continued to put shots on net. In the third period alone, the Predators recorded 24 shots on Andersen. Even with the traffic in front, Nashville couldn’t notch another one.
“I was just trying to go in front of the net and retrieve pucks,” said Nystrom. We were trying to screen the goalie. One popped right to me, but that was basically it, just go up front.”
If there’s one thing the Predators have been good at this season, it’s learning from mistakes and coming out strong following a loss.
“We just have to be sharper,” said Nystrom. “We were just a little out of sync early on and went down against them. We can come back against a lot of teams, but they’re pretty solid. Once we got down, we tried battling back, but we just weren’t sharp.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette echoed Nystrom’s thoughts.
“I think we are learning and still working at things,” said Laviolette. “I do not think there is a question whether we can be successful against an Anaheim or St. Louis, I think we have proven we can. We will move on and look forward to the next opponent.”
The next opponent will be in Nashville on Saturday, and it’s the New York Rangers, who come in to Bridgestone Arena riding a three-game winning streak. It’s an early afternoon game (2pm), but one that Nystrom looks forward to.
“We just wake up and go play some hockey,” said Nystrom on the advantage of an early afternoon game. “We’ve played a few recently, so it’s good to get that experience. You just wake, go play some hockey, and you’re done early while the sun is still up.”