There has been a sudden change in direction for the Nashville Predators in the last week compared to how the team had played in the previous two months. Following their three-game skid coming into Saturday night’s game, the Predators were able to gain one point in their 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks.
From the start of the game, the Sharks dominated play although it didn’t show on the scoreboard. The Predators took a two-goal lead into the third period, but suffered a barrage from the Sharks the entire period. The onslaught by San Jose resulted in two goals to force the game into overtime.
“They’re a good team, they played pretty well,” said Ryan Johansen. “Two tough bounces for us, but that’s the way it goes sometimes against good teams. We just have to be able to play a better third period.”
In the third period, the Sharks outshot Nashville 13-4, as well as 5-1 in overtime. For the entirety of the final period of regulation, the Predators couldn’t muster enough offensive opportunities to give themselves a chance at sealing the victory.
“We’ll have to watch some video tomorrow, but I think we just need to play a simpler, smarter game,” said Johansen. “You look at the end of the year, the type of hockey that’s played in the playoffs, you try to make those plays in the middle of the ice and in those danger areas, good teams that reload and backtrack hard, they’re going to turn over pucks. I think we could’ve done a better job of getting pucks behind their defensemen and get on the offense a little bit more.”
Forward Colton Sissons showed tremendous maturity and took responsibility for a turnover that led to a San Jose goal. That goal came early in the third period, and it helped give the Sharks the momentum they needed to finish the game.
“I’ll be accountable, I had a poorly-timed turnover against their big line with Thornton and Pavelski and it ended up in the back of our net,” said Sissons. “That was their first goal and their second goal was just a hockey play, nothing really going on there. We know they’re a good team and they weren’t going to go away. There are momentum shifts in a game like that. We got one point which was nice but we’re leaving this game a little sour.”
With the Predators clinching a berth in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday night thanks to a Colorado loss to Washington, this is the time when the team can take the opportunity to make adjustments to be successful. In their current skid, the team just isn’t playing a full 60-minute game that they’ve spoken so much about before. They have three games, two of which are at home, to get back to playing good hockey before the playoffs begin in just a week and a half.
“Obviously your mindset isn’t ‘yeah, we want to lose four games in a row going into the playoffs,’” said Shea Weber. “You want to be winning and winning makes you confident. Obviously you want to win, but I think the most important thing is playing good hockey because there are times when you’re not going to win games, you’re playing well but the puck doesn’t bounce your way and we’ve got to get to doing that.”
Saturday night’s outcome was not one that left head coach Peter Laviolette happy with his team’s performance. In preparation for the week ahead, the team will have multiple practices between home games and will have an opportunity to improve upon that.
“We’ve got to play better than we did tonight,” said Laviolette. “We weren’t ready to work, we’ve got to work from the start to the finish, and the results I think reflected that. The good thing is, this week coming up we’ve got some practices, and we can get back to working on some things, push the pace, and look to straighten things out.”
The Predators have two remaining home games next week beginning with the Colorado Avalanche returning to Nashville on Tuesday. Nashville closes out their regular season home schedule against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and then finish the regular season in Dallas on Saturday. With seeding implications still at hand, along with finishing the regular season with some momentum, these games will serve an important role for the entire team. As long as the Predators play good, solid hockey in these three remaining games, it can help them gain back some of the confidence lost in the past week.