At least two total points have been squandered in the waning minutes of the third period in two straight losses by the Nashville Predators. Thursday night, with the game tied 1-1 in Montreal, the Canadiens scored with just nine seconds remaining to get the win. Saturday night, Nashville battled back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game 3-3 early in the third only to allow Chicago to score with 1:05 left in regulation.
“It’s tough and obviously we’ve got to find a way to get a point out of that game for sure,” said P.K. Subban. “I think we played a really good game but you know, details we’ve got to make sure in those moments of the game we are bearing down and understand the importance of it. You know good teams find a way to win and they’re a good team and they capitalized on some of our mistakes tonight.”
Those two points, one each game from at least forcing overtime, could turn out to be huge in regards to playoff seeding. St. Louis is currently six points behind with a game in hand and Winnipeg is seven points back with a game ahead of the Predators. Third place in the division is right there for the taking by Nashville, but with the Predators not being able to close and at least gain a point, they could find themselves in dangerous territory. The two losses have some questioning Nashville’s killer instinct.
“I’d say so, you look at the last 10 games, we’ve been down a lot of times,” said Ryan Johansen. “We’ve been able to come back, Calgary it was a three-goal comeback, against teams that are hungry to make the playoffs. I think we definitely have that killer instinct, it’s just a couple are lucky or small mistakes and people find a way to score a goal.”
It wasn’t for a lack of opportunity for Nashville. Within the first five minutes of the game, the Predators already had 10 shots on goal. Following a fight between Cody McLeod and Jordin Tootoo, the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to flip a switch and settle into the game. They quickly climbed back up in the shot count and score on the power play. In the game, the Predators gave up two power play goals, and the absence of defenseman Ryan Ellis could easily be felt.
“I miss him everywhere,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “It takes down 25 minutes, whether there’s power play, PK, or five-on- five. You always miss a top player. You miss any player when they come out of the lineup, certainly a guy that takes down 25 minutes.”
Aside from the two-goal comeback, another positive is that the top line continued its heightened play. Viktor Arvidsson notched two goals, Ryan Johansen tallied two assists and Filip Forsberg added another assist. Five of the seven total points for the Predators in Saturday’s game came from those three players.
While frustrating, the team now embarks on a three-game road trip to California where things won’t get any easier for them. All three California team are in playoff position with San Jose and Anaheim at first and second in the Pacific Division, respectively.
“Of course it’s frustrating, we’ve got to try to clean it up,” said Viktor Arvidsson of the two losses. “At least get a point or take it into overtime. We’re going on the road here, we’ve got three tough games ahead so it’s going to be a hard battle.”
With Calgary pushing the pace in the Wild Card standings, if St. Louis or Winnipeg put a burst of points together, it could push Nashville down to the second Wild Card spot. As it stands now, the Predators would at least be able to stay in the Central Time Zone with Chicago and Minnesota both ahead of the Pacific-leading Sharks. Either way, this three-game road trip is extremely important as there are only 17 games remaining in the regular season.