The final quarter of the season is not going the way anyone expected for the Nashville Predators. From being at the top of the league with a cushion of points, Nashville now just holds a two-point lead on the Central Division. With their sixth straight loss on Saturday night at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 3-1, the Predators are not so much frustrated with their play, but more the results.
“I thought that we played another solid game like the game before,” said goaltender Pekka Rinne. “We’re just not getting the results right now.”
For the eleventh straight game, Nashville gave up the first goal. What used to be a non issue to the team is certainly becoming one. Earlier in the season, the Predators had a dominating, winning record when allowing the first goal. While they still lead the league in win when trailing first, the loss column has almost caught up with the team. Currently, Nashville is 19-18-3 when allowing the opponent to score first. Even with the six game losing streak, it shows the cushion they had built.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about,” said Rinne on allowing the first goal for 11 straight games. “The last few games, we’ve had a good start, even tonight. It’s just small breaks happen during the game. Tonight, one guy goes down, the other guy breaks his stick and they get almost a two on nothing and they score a goal. There’s not a lot of puck luck right now. It’s never just luck. You have to work hard, but it’s going to come. It’s going to come for sure.”
The team isn’t so much upset with their compete level, but more frustrated with the end result and limited number of bounces going their way.
“It’s a tough break on their second goal,” said defenseman Mattias Ekholm. “We just scored one and they came right back. It kind of set us back a bit. I thought we played a solid game tonight. We’re really working, it’s just that we have to keep our eyes off the scoreboard right now. We just have to get that lucky bounce and work extra hard for it.”
It’s difficult to find the positives when a team is suffering a six game losing streak. Every time they inch closer to be in a game right now, something happens to take them right out of it.
“It’s very frustrating not to win when you play well,” said Ekholm. “You feel like you’re getting closer to a win all the time. We have got to keep positive with the things we’re doing out there. I think we had scoring chances and have to bear down on them. It’s tight games all the time and one goal games. It’s never going to be easy.”
While the Predators have faced teams desperately working to make or maintain a playoff spot, up next for them are the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are 21-38-7, good for next to last in the conference by two points. If there were ever a game where Nashville needs to win, it’s this one.
“I don’t necessarily think we need to change much,” said Ekholm. “I think we’re playing well, but we just have to bear down. We have to get guys in front of the net, get a shot from the point, get a tip, get a greasy goal, get something going for us to give us energy at the right times. I feel like tonight, and last game too, we score and they come right back and score and take our momentum away. It’s small details in hockey.”
Nashville hasn’t faced much adversity this season until now. If this is meant to teach them how to lose, they need to right the ship against Arizona, because following the Coyotes, the Predators play at San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.