Despite blowing a two-goal third period lead to the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-4 overtime loss, the Nashville Predators were once again the beneficiary of a solid game from one of the newest Predators, Cody McLeod.
McLeod, acquired from the Colorado Avalanche on January 13, fought Marcus Foligno in the first period then scored in the second period to give the Predators a brief 2-1 lead. That was his second goal in just six games with the Predators, and his third on the season.
“All the guys have been great,” McLeod said of his time so far with the Predators. “I’m just trying to do my thing out there, being physical and going to the net and got a lucky one tonight, but so far so good. Like I said, the guys have been great and we had a great road trip.”
“We got the one point tonight, which was a positive, but definitely a game in which I think we should have had two.”
His goal came at the 17:28 mark of the second period when the puck sat in the crease, and McLeod poked it just above the skate of goaltender Robin Lehner. McLeod was the first person in the arena to know the puck was in, and put his arms up to celebrate. The referees had to review the play and ruled it a good goal.
The Predators took a 4-2 lead into the final minutes of the third period, but Brian Gionta and Kyle Okposo scored just a few minutes apart to tie the game. In overtime, Sabres forward Jack Eichel blitzed by all three Predators defenders and fired a laser over the shoulder of goaltender Juuse Saros to win the game for Buffalo.
However, according to McLeod, the Predators had some good things going throughout the game.
“There were a few shifts where we were stringing some good O-zone time together, and then a couple of lapses and we couldn’t get the puck out of our own end,” he said. “That’s what happens: it gets in the back of your net.”
The 6’2”, 210 lb forward is known for his physical play as well, and he showed it against the Sabres. In addition to his goal, McLeod laid five hits, one of which led to his fight with Foligno. Head coach Peter Laviolette has liked what he’s seen so far from McLeod.
“He brings a lot,” Laviolette said. “He had five hits, a fight and a goal tonight. That’s about a perfect snapshot of what he can do.”
Since acquiring McLeod, the Predators have gone 4-1-1, including winning four out of five games on their recent road trip. His first goal as a Predator came in his first game for Nashville against his former team, the Avalanche.
This was his first game in front of Predators fans, however, and that was not lost on McLeod.
“I think a little nerves at the start, but once you get that first shift, first hit out of the way, it’s just a hockey game,” he said. “I’m happy to be in Nashville, it’s a great place to play, the fans are awesome, and it was definitely a lot of fun. Would have been more fun if we got the two points.”
The Predators won’t have much time to dwell on this loss, as they are back in action on Thursday against another Eastern Conference opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets. According to McLeod, the team can take at least something away from the disappointing defeat.
“I think you have to learn from every game that you play,” he said. “It’s tough, it’s a 60-minute game, we had a two-goal lead there in the third period, and we let them back in it. That’s how quickly a game can change.”