Following a four-game winning streak that included wins over top teams like the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators have now lost five in a row and only earned two total points in those five games. With only one game remaining in the regular season, the Predators must find a way to right the ship after their 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.
“There’s always stuff you can fix,” said Filip Forsberg. “Obviously our defensive game has been kind of off lately, but I think we played better defensively. We just have to try to get longer situations down there and try to work them a little more. I think that can help us coming down the stretch here.”
Thursday night, the Wild rested their top offensive players and starting goaltender. Without Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, Tomas Vanek and Devan Dubnyk, the game was there for the taking. As it’s been seen during the entire losing streak, a strong first period hasn’t lead to wins, with Nashville squandering leads. Going into the second period, the Predators held on to a lead of 2-0, which disappeared later on when they allowed two goals less than a minute apart.
“It’s what we wanted, obviously,” said Paul Gaustad about the lead going in to the second. “They stuck with it and kept shooting. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them. They got a power play goal and just a quick one right afterwards, so again it’s just making those mistakes and people are capitalizing on them.”
The team has been unable to finish and frustration levels continue to mount. Even with the team having secured a playoff bid almost two weeks ago, they aren’t playing at the level of hockey that they know is expected.
“I think there’s a big difference when we play the way we can, which is really intense, solid defensively,” said Pekka Rinne. “I think you see a difference when we play that way. I don’t think we played that way tonight. Especially at home, it’s disappointing, but we move one. There’s one game left. This was a big game for the division and home ice advantage. There’s lots on the line and we didn’t put the effort on the ice like we were supposed to and how we need to play this time of the year.”
With Chicago also losing to St. Louis on Thursday night, Nashville clinched home ice during the first round. It’s not how the team wanted to get it done, though.
“Those are points that we wanted,” said Gaustad. “We wanted to clinch home ice in front of our fans, so that’s frustrating. We have to put it behind us as quickly as possible and move forward.”
There’s still an opportunity to fix things before the playoffs begin on April 15th. Nashville practices on Friday before flying to Dallas to close the season on Saturday. It’s still in question as to who their first round opponent will be, either Chicago or Minnesota, but they know consistency is a major concern.
“I think it’s attention to detail and not having lulls during the game,” said Gaustad on what needs to be fixed. “We’re just having sporadic play right now. We’ll just get better cleaning up our game a bit.”
Frustration isn’t just in the locker room and it continues to mount for head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I do not think anyone saw this coming,” said Laviolette on losing games going into the playoffs. “We have practice tomorrow and hopefully there is a change of attitude. We have to have more urgency with what we are doing. We cannot lose battles, we cannot lose assignments, there has to be more pop to what we do on the ice. We cannot rely on a two goal lead in the first five minutes and we cannot hope to pull something out in the third, it is not good enough.”
View Peter Laviolette’s press conference below:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough