For the fifth time in seven games, Nashville gave up the first goal of the game, and even though Ryan Ellis quickly responded to tie it up, the Predators finished the first period flat-footed. The Wild scored two goals in less than a minute to go up 3-1.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Ellis said on giving up the first goal yet again. “It seems to spark us in a way, but we should be sparked right from the get go. It’s a division game, the last two were, and we’ve got to come out a lot harder than we did in the first. We’ve found ourselves down a lot recently, and it’s got to change.”
Ellis’ goal came less than two minutes after Jonas Brodin opened the scoring for the Wild. He got a pass from Colin Wilson and shot a laser beam past Devan Dubnyk. But, as the first period ended, the wheels fell off for the Predators.
Charlie Coyle slid a rebound past a sprawled-out Pekka Rinne to take the lead at 18:37, then Eric Staal found himself wide open in the slot and rifled the puck into the net to double Minnesota’s advantage at 19:06.
Many drew comparisons between Thursday’s game and Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues in which the Predators came back from down 3-0 in the second period. This time around, the Predators were playing from behind for most of the game, but couldn’t find one more goal.
“I thought we had it there, in the second period we had a good period and we were buzzing, we just couldn’t find it tonight,” said Mike Fisher, who got the second goal of the game . “I thought it’d be nice to repeat Tuesday night, but it wasn’t our night.”
Head coach Peter Laviolette stressed the importance of the two quick goals at the end of the first period rather than the first goal.
“The first goal doesn’t matter, we made it 1-1,” he said. “Would you like to get it? Yeah, but the swing in the period was the last two goals that made it 3-1. We battled back at that point, and like I said it was a power play goal that they scored to go up 1-0, I thought are game was pretty good 5-on-5. We let it slip for two minutes.”
What is perhaps even more frustrating for the Predators is that they controlled the game for most of the contest, outshooting the Wild 36-19. In the second period, the Predators outshot the Predators 13 to four. Nashville had a 55 to 35 edge in shot attempts as well, according to Corsica.
But, it was those sloppy few minutes in the third period that proved to be the difference in this game.
“We probably played 50-55 minutes that we really liked,” Laviolette said. “They had 10 chances, probably four in the last two minutes of the first period and three in that last two minutes of the second period, not a lot more than that. Those did us in. That time that we didn’t execute, it did us in.”
The Predators looked like an active, buzzing team through most of the game. However, Laviolette wasn’t sugarcoating the loss at all.
“It’s frustrating right now,” he said. “It’s hard to sit here and tell you it’s all good.”
Ellis, who scored his fourth goal of the season, said the Predators need to take the good things from the second and third periods and apply them to the first.
“There’s a lot of positives out there in the second and third,” he said. “But, the first periods, they’ve got to stop the way they’re going right now. It’s what killed us there, but if we can play like we did in the second and third in the first, we’ll be a really good team.”
The Predators are set to take on the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers on Saturday at 7 pm.