Saturday night in Nashville was full of storylines. Ultimately, and begrudgingly to Predators fans, Jimmy Vesey got the last laugh for now as he tallied a goal in the shootout where the New York Rangers took down Nashville 2-1 in the shootout.
It was another game where the Predators fell behind in the first period before finally getting into a rhythm. Following the New York goal in the first, Nashville began to look more organized on the ice. Mike Fisher notched his ninth of the season midway through the second with Colin Wilson setting up an excellent screen on Henrik Lundqvist.
“I try to take the goalie’s eyes away,” said Colin Wilson. “It was a pass-shot and essentially it went in. I just try to get there and take their eyes away.”
After that, Nashville found their groove, but couldn’t solve Lundqvist. Their play continued to improve as the game progressed, and Peter Laviolette liked how his club performed after the first period.
“I didn’t think we played very well in the first period, I thought we got a lot better in the second half of the game but the first period for me, we turned the puck over too many times at their blue line,” said Laviolette. “They’ve got such good speed and good transition; we knew we couldn’t do that. I thought we did a better job of managing the puck in the second period and certainly in the third period.”
Overtime is where the Predators have struggled, again, this season. Captain Mike Fisher felt like the team’s play in overtime has improved, but it’s obviously not good enough since they cannot find the back of the net in extra time.
“I feel like our possession is much better,” said Fisher. “Our 3-on-3 is improving and in shootouts, we just haven’t been able to find it. We have the skill and guys who can put the puck in the net, we just haven’t been [executing]. We’ve had the bounces; we just have to find a way [to score].”
In Saturday’s game, Peter Laviolette decided to rest Pekka Rinne and give Juuse Saros, fresh off another call-up from Milwaukee, the start. Saros was once again strong in net. He gave the Predators a chance to win by making saves when he needed to and positioning himself properly to play the puck.
“We rely on Peks [Rinne] a lot,” said Ryan Ellis. “He’s been unbelievable for us. Sometimes we don’t do a great job in front of him. When Juuse was in net, I thought we limited their chances, and when [Juuse Saros] needed to make a big save, he made the big save. That’s what we’re going to need going forward. Whether it’s Peks [Rinne] or Juuse in net, we’re pretty lucky with the goaltenders we have here.
Getting a point against a non-conference team that is now 14 points ahead them in the standings is a positive way to look at things, but it’s a game that Nashville could have won. The inconsistency is frustrating not only the players, but the fans as well. When the team is clicking, they look unstoppable, but they haven’t been able to string it together for multiple games.
“We have to find ways to win and get rolling and move up in the standings,” said Mike Fisher. “We know we can be better. We have to be better. [We] have to get back to the way we were playing a few weeks ago and start getting some wins. We’re a confident group. We have the guys in here to do it. We’re going to pick it up and just keep improving and getting better.”
The Predators head to the northeast for back-to-back games against opponents they recently saw in back-to-back games at Bridgestone Arena in Philadelphia and New Jersey. It will be another challenge, but luckily, they face the Flyers first on Monday and the struggling Devils on Tuesday.