Let's give the young pups for the Predators credit- they hustled and worked hard, but there was no chemistry tonight as the Predators fell to the Ducks 3-2. The Predators looked as if they were out of sync most of the night until the third period, when a valiant comeback fell short, and the Ducks skated away with their first road victory since December 22nd.
Down 3-0 on goals by Teemu Selanne, Matt Belesky, and Ryan Getzlaf, the Predators started the third period on the power play and quickly tallied as Patric Hornqvist continued his torrid goal scoring pace, notching his 17th goal :45 seconds into the period. Martin Erat scored off a deflection of a J.P. Dumont shot to cut the margin to 3-2 with three minutes left in the game. That was all the scoring and the Preds failed to make up any ground in the standings due to a lackluster effort.
Ben Guite said in remarks after the game that the Predators came out flat and didn't have energy until the third period. Okay, if this is a problem, I will buy this team a clock so they will know when the game begins. Guys, this is a sixty minute game, and playing 20 minutes of hockey is not going to get it.
Pekka Rinne got the start in net, and he is owed an apology by the defense. The first two goals the Predators gave up were due to defensive breakdowns. Shea Weber fell down in the corner trying to deliver a check and Selanne got open in the low slot to fire a puck over Rinne's shoulder.
The second goal from Belesky was a nice three on two tic tac toe passing exhibition as Belesky buried the shot off a nice assist from Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf stretched the lead to three goals with an unassisted wrister through traffic that beat Rinne on the short side of the net.
It was then that the Preds obtained the much needed sense of urgency. Going on the power play to start the third, Hornqvist quickly fired a wrister past Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller for his 11th goal in the last 13 games.
The Predators kept up the attack and had several good chances, but were unable to solve Hiller until there were three minutes left in the game. Erat deflected a shot by J.P. Dumont over Hillers's shoulder to cut the deficit to one, but the Predators couldn't put another shot past the Ducks netminder. They ended a four game home stand 2-2.
Coach Barry Trotz said after the game that the Predators played "nice" hockey and were back on their heels for much of the game. Frankly, nice doesn't cut it. This team needs to play to win instead of playing not to lose. This team needs to play with an edge. This team needs to play with a sense of desperation that has been lacking.
There were a number of new players inserted into the lineup due to injuries. So be it. Injuries are something that every team has to deal with during the course of the season. There was good hustle from Nick Spaling, Cal O'Reilly, and Andreas Thuresson. I don't fault the effort or the hustle. I fault the team for not sensing the importance of this game and having the drive and energy to bring it in their own barn.
I don't know what it takes to generate the sense of urgency that this team needs. The Western Conference race is too tight to coast through games. The points this team needs have to be obtained every time there is an opportunity. The Predators have to hit the ice every night with this sense of desperation and urgency.
No more "nice" games. No more coasting. Time to turn it up a notch, boys. Balls to the wall. These games are too important and the point too precious to be nice. Time to play with the end in mind- winning games, piling up points, and cementing a playoff position.
You're going to face adversity. Every team does. Injuries are a fact of life in this game. Every team deals with them. No one gives you sympathy. No one cares.
Disjointed, discombobulated efforts are unacceptable. No more waiting until the third period to start playing. Time to get that sense of urgency. Time to get a clock to let you know when the game starts.