After a game in which the Nashville Predators gave up seven goals, changed goaltenders halfway through the game, and couldn’t get more than 10 shots on goal until late in the second period, head coach Peter Laviolette was blunt in his assessment of his team’s performance.
“It was gross.”
The Predators started the game flat-footed, and it carried over through the entire “gross” performance, a 7-4 loss to the Florida Panthers.
Six different Panthers scored goals in the matinee at Bridgestone Arena. They scored them in all sorts of ways, including tip-ins, breakaways, and on the power play. Florida heavily outshot Nashville throughout the game, and chased goaltender Pekka Rinne out of the game midway through the second period.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Predators couldn’t seem to find much rhythm. Viktor Arvidsson did notch a hat trick, but the rest of the team didn’t follow his lead. They didn’t register their 10th shot on goal until the last 10 minutes of the second period, and took a whopping 10 penalties in the game, leading to two Panthers power play goals.
It was a game to forget for the Predators, but Vernon Fiddler doesn’t want to forget it just yet.
“You’ve got to eat it up,” Fiddler said. “You’ve got to get the fire under you again. You’ve lost two in a row here, you can’t lose three in a row. We’ve got to have a big response from everybody tomorrow.”
Even as Arvidsson lit up the score sheet, the rest of the team didn’t seem to follow suit. The only other Predators goal scorer was Roman Josi, who tied the game at one in the first period on a wacky knucklepuck shot on the power play.
Captain Mike Fisher said his team needs to take something away from this game.
“We’ve got to learn from it,” he said. “We just have to be better. Our start wasn’t good, we’ve been starting pretty good, and today, they just jumped on us and were winning battles early. They just got ahead of us and it wasn’t our best night.”
It looked as if the Predators would be able to stay in the game early in the second period when Arvidsson got his first goal to tie the game. However, three minutes later, they found themselves down by three thanks to a sharp-angled goal by Nick Bjugstad, a breakaway score by Vincent Trochek, and a power play goal by Aleksander Barkov. Florida’s lead never dipped below two goals after that.
Laviolette attributed his team’s failures to its mindset.
“We didn’t play with any purpose,” he said. “There was no passion, no effort. You’re never going to win a hockey game like that. The actions that we gave were going to give us the results that we got. It’s that simple.”
He also concurred with Fiddler, and didn’t want his players to move on from this game so quickly.
“The only good thing right now is that we play tomorrow,” he said. “You get a chance to move forward and take something that was ugly and try to learn from it and be better prepared. A lot of times they say you should put it in the trash can and forget about it. I think we should take it home and wrestle with it all night.”
The Predators do get the chance for quick redemption tomorrow with the Dallas Stars in town, but after that will have their league-mandated week off. That means that all of the other playoff contenders can gather points in the standings, while the Predators have to wait and watch.
Fisher said his team has to be ready to play tomorrow as they head into the break.
“We’ve got to be a lot better, but we’re right back at it tomorrow,” he said. “We’re right in things, we know we’ve got to be desperate tomorrow, just get ready for that game and respond with a good one.”
After this loss, the Predators sit in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, one point behind the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division, and one point ahead of the Calgary Flames, who do not play until Monday night.
With less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, and a tight playoff race coming up, the Predators know they have to shake some of their inconsistencies.
“You want to be in a playoff spot,” Fiddler said. “You’ve got to get as many points piled us as you can, and it’s going to be a dogfight here after the break. You want to get as many points as you can.”
The Predators get right back to work tomorrow when they take on the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 P.M. central time.