In the heat of the battle for the Central Division, the Nashville Predators have squandered important points in the last two games. Saturday night’s 4-3 loss in overtime to the Dallas Stars still gives Nashville a much-needed point, but with St. Louis and Chicago hot on their tails, the Predators need two points in every game to secure the division title.
After a strong first period where they gained the lead off a goal from Filip Forsberg, the second and third periods were much different stories.
“I don’t know, actually,” said Forsberg on why the team has struggled so much in the second period lately. “They change up stuff. We played really well in the first period, and obviously they were not happy with their first, so they’re going to change. I just think we have to be better at playing the way we played in the first. In the second, we’ve been struggling a little bit lately.”
When the Stars went up by two goals midway through the third, it seemed as if a light went off in Nashville’s head and they began to battle back. It’s been seen in a few games in the past month where the Predators have had a lethargic second period only to battle back and completely dominate a tremendous portion of the third. Ryan Ellis brought the deficit to one at 10:46. Then, with the Nashville net empty, James Neal tied the game at 18:05.
“It’s great and a really good sign especially coming into the playoffs where you have to fight back from deficits late in the third like we did,” said Forsberg. “That’s something that we’ve been pretty good at doing lately and even through the whole season. That can be a huge factor in the playoffs.”
Throughout the second half of the third period, the Predators wore down the Stars. At one point, Nashville held the puck in the offensive zone for nearly two minutes without a stoppage in play.
“Our line had a really good shift there,” said Forsberg. “Me and Neal are pretty big guys down there. Ribeiro is a really smart player and he always goes to the right area and tries to protect the puck. Josi and Weber on the blueline have as much skill up there as we have down low. We were just trying to keep the puck and get it to the net. I think we had a couple really good chances to get a goal. Unfortunately we couldn’t get one there, but we got one later on. It was a big shift for the team.”
The extended time in the zone didn’t lead to a goal, but it shows how dominant this team can be when they are clicking. Forsberg, along with Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Shea Weber and Roman Josi did everything they could in the shift to generate opportunities and completely wear down Dallas.
“They did a good job,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “The defense and the forwards did a good job of keeping the press on, keeping the pucks in and slamming the walls. There some attempts and some movement. You’d like to do that to tire up the defense. I think we went so long that our guys started to get a little tired, too.”
Nashville currently has a one-point lead on the Central Division with only three games left in the regular season. St. Louis and Chicago each have four games left and play each other twice. The division is still up in the air, but Forsberg understands how important getting two points is in each game to close out the season.
“It’s all about winning in this league,” said Forsberg. “Three straight losses aren’t good enough. I think we played really well in the third period and we deserved to win today. We have to bear down, especially in overtime, where we could have ended the game. We’re just going to get back at it on Tuesday.”
Photo Credit: Kristen Jerkins