In positive news, the Nashville Predators have now earned points in seven of their last eight games. They’ve climbed the standings to sit at third in the Central Division, just ahead of St. Louis. But Tuesday night, in their first home game following five-game road trip, they blew a 4-2 lead to the Buffalo Sabres. Nashville ended up losing the game 5-4 in overtime, but at least gained a point in the loss.
“Any point you can get this time of the year is important,” said defenseman Matt Iriwn. “The sad thing is the one that got away from us when we had a two-goal lead at home. It’s frustrating. We have to bear down and finish that off. That’s what going to keep us going, and that’s what’s going to move us deep in the playoffs.”
Nashville did have some positives in the game before it went off the rails. In the first period, while on the penalty kill, Filip Forsberg scored a shorthanded goal for his 15th of the season. During this time, the Predators were on the penalty kill for almost four full minutes. 16 seconds of it was a five-on-three penalty kill. They successfully killed off both while also scoring a goal.
“That’s big when they get an early power play, it’s the killer’s job to kill it off at first,” said Irwin, who had the secondary assist on Forsberg’s goal. “If we can create some offense, that’s a bonus. It was a great play by Jarnkrok and Fil to get us that early lead.”
Fast forward to the third period where Viktor Arvidsson and James Neal gave the Predators a 4-2 lead. Following Neal’s goal at 10:17 of the third, the winds changed in the direction of the Sabres. Brian Gionta made it 4-3 at 14:10 and then Kyle Okposo tied the game at 18:55 with Buffalo’s net sitting empty.
Compared to the 30 shots Nashville had combined between the first and second periods, they only had eight in the third. While Buffalo only had seven in the third period, they made them count when they needed it. Defensive breakdowns and a lack of push in the opposite direction made it seem like Nashville got comfortable with that two-goal lead.
“I don’t think you’re ever too comfortable,” said Irwin. “You just have to keep pushing the pace. You have to stay on your toes. You can’t let them bring the game to you. When you have that two goal lead, you have to have that killer instinct to push for the next one. Maybe we sat back on our heels a little too much.”
In overtime, the Predators didn’t seem to stand a chance once Buffalo’s Jack Eichel was out there as he notched the game winner past Juuse Saros at 2:35 of overtime.
Nashville has one more game before the All Star Break, and they won’t be facing an easy opponent. The Columbus Blue Jackets will be in town Thursday. They’ll need to use Wednesday’s practice to refocus on not just protecting a lead, but keeping the pace even with the lead.
“There were parts of our game that we really liked,” said Irwin. “Obviously there are parts of up that we’d like to clean up. That being said, we’ll get back to work tomorrow and try to fix all those things that went sideways on us.”