You hate to say that games are "must win" at this time of the season, but the game against the Avalanche could come close. The Predators were looking to end a two game slide and draw back into a tie for fourth place. Instead, the Predators uncharacteristically committed nine penalties and gave up two power play goals to fall to the Avs 2-1.
The Predators found themselves in a 1-0 hole as Matt Duchene scored on a 5 on 3 power play with Ryan Suter and Steve Sullivan in the box. Predator goalie Pekka Rinne had no chance on the play as the Avalanche moved the puck well, and Duchene was the beneficiary of a nice pass to chip the puck into a nearly wide open net.
With Wade Belak off for hooking, Brandon Yip found the back of the net, and once again, the Predators were trying to dig themselves out of another hole. After a tough game in Phoenix the night before and playing at the high altitude that is Denver, this looked to be a near impossible task.
Pekka Rinne was solid in net, giving up only the two power play goals on 23 shots, both of which were impossible for him to stop. Pekka was able to clean up some defensive breakdowns and kept the Predators within striking distance. Up for debate is whether the goalie rotation is preventing either Pekka or Dan Ellis from getting into a consistent rhythm in net.
Cody Franson cut the lead to one with a power play goal at 8:57 of the second as he unleashed a blast from just inside the blueline. Franson continues to settle in to the sixth d-man role, and his play shows maturity and improvement.
In the third, the Predators had a goal by Ryan Suter disallowed on a weak goaltender interference call on Patric Hornqvist. Weak. This is a family blog. That is all I can say.
Late in the period, Hornqvist was able to gather in the puck during a goal mouth scramble and put a backhand off the post over a sprawling Craig Anderson. That was the last good scoring chance for the Predators as the Avalanche held on for the 2-1 win.
In both the Phoenix game and the game tonight, the Predators had opportunities, but could not bury the puck. It is imperative that the Preds keep shooting the puck and crashing the net. Good things will come if this continues.
One could look at the officiating and lay the blame for the loss on the refs. They certainly had a hand in this game. The reality is that the Predators committed a number of dumb penalties and put themselves in a hole because of their play. The fact is that the officiating in this league will never be perfect. We have to play a better game than we did tonight regardless of the officiating.
A three game losing streak is not the end of the world. But a three game losing streak is troubling because the Predators are in a fight for playoff positioning in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Points are precious, and it is important to stop this slide now. It's time for the big guns to step up and for the team to begin to play Predator hockey once again.
Confidence can be a fragile thing; winning a fickle mistress. This team can win, and they know it. They also know what it takes to win- gritty hockey, solid defense, heart, and a determination not to lose.Winning favors the team that embraces those characteristics. The focus in the upcoming games has to be on those attributes, the character of this team.
Learn from the mistakes that cost you these three games. Remember how it feels when you lose. And change the direction of this team. Win by playing with discipline, focus, and heart. Win by playing Predator hockey.