From the very start of Tuesday night’s game against Dallas, the energy felt like it was just going to be one of those nights. The Nashville Predators were outshot 16-4 in the first period and failed to capitalize in five-on-five opportunities leading to their 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars.
Following their game Saturday night against Chicago where they showed some fight even in a loss, Tuesday night, the Predators just couldn’t get their engines firing on all cylinders. Puck control seemed lacking and opportunity after opportunity failed to reach the back of the net.
“We didn’t get anything going,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “Powerplay, I thought we got it set up and moved it around, but we could’ve been more patient at times and I think we forced it to the middle too much but five-on-five wasn’t there.”
A sluggish start can be overcome as long as the offense gets going, but Nashville couldn’t put more than one puck behind Stars goaltender Kari Lethtonen. After the four-shot first period, the Predators fired off 14 in the second period and 10 in the third, but only one of those got past Lehtonen.
“We just played really bad in the first, I think,” said Roman Josi. “If it wasn’t for Pekka, they probably would have been up three-nothing or four-nothing. We didn’t play well at all in the first, but got a little better in the second, but we know it wasn’t our best effort tonight. You’ve just got to be ready. There are no excuses. It’s a huge game against a division rival. It’s in our building. We can’t get outworked in the first period in our building. We’ve got to learn from it and not let it happen again.”
As Josi stated, goaltender Pekka Rinne played outstanding on Tuesday night. He kept Nashville in the game even though the Predators really didn’t deserve to be in it. Captain Mike Fisher and head coach Peter Laviolette echoed those thoughts.
“The positive was Pekka played unbelievable, “said Mike Fisher. “It would have been 5-1 if it wasn’t for him.”
“He was outstanding,” said Peter Laviolette on Rinne. “It could have been all over in the first. He was outstanding.”
Another positive from the loss is that the powerplay continues to churn right along. Nashville is converting at 50% (4 of 8). While it’s early, special teams do play a big part of a team’s success throughout the season. With that unit clicking, it now stands on the rest of the team to get it done at even strength.
“We’re just shooting a lot of pucks, and pucks are going in right now,” said Josi. “I think our key is just getting as many pucks to the net, and it’s been working so far.”
The Predators have the next two days off before playing at Detroit in the first of another Friday/Saturday back-to-back where they will face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Getting at least another split in the back-to-back is vital in the start to the season. In the past five seasons, only three Central Division teams have made the playoffs when starting the season below .500 in their first ten games. In addition, no Central Division team has advanced past the first round in the past five season when they’ve started below .500 in the first 10 games.
The schedule to begin the season is a difficult one for Nashville, but the team is built for success. The talent is in the roster. Now, it’s time for the coaching staff to find the right combination to make it click on the ice.