The law of averages caught up to the Nashville Predators as the Los Angeles Kings broke a seven game losing streak to the Preds with a 2-0 win at Bridgestone Arena. Jonathan Bernier got the start tonight, and was never seriously challenged by the Predators in recording his first career shutout.
After two scoreless periods of hockey, this game took on the appearance of the first team to score would win the game. Sure enough, the Predators lost coverage in the defensive zone and Scott Parse was cruising into the low slot alone and roofed a puck over the shoulder of Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, who had no chance to stop the shot. The score came at 7:50 of the third period.
The Kings would extend the lead to 2-0 as Sean O'Donnell corralled a bouncing puck and beat Rinne to the stick side at 17:59. The Predators would never mount a serious scoring threat after the tally, and suffered their first loss to the Kings in 8 games.
In the first period, the Predators were fortunate to escape with a scoreless tie, as the Kings outshot the Predators 18-8. Rinne was called on to make some spectacular saves to keep the game scoreless.
The Predators generated some good scoring chances in the first few minutes of the first period, but couldn't put anything past Bernier. After the first five minutes of the period, the Kings asserted themselves and it looked as if the Predators were just hanging on for dear life and trying to survive the period.
The ice tilted in favor of the Predators in the second period, as they outshot the Kings by a 15-4 margin. As Head Coach Barry Trotz said in his post game remarks, the aspect of the Predators game that was missing all night was a strong net presence. Bernier was able to see the shots cleanly and rarely had traffic in front. Most of his saves tonight were very routine. That disturbing trend continued throughout the third period for the Predators.
One can look at this game and say that the Predators were fatigued, and that was probably a factor. 17 games in the month of March, the most of any team in the NHL. Fatigue is an excuse, however. Every team is fatigued. Tonight, the effort in the offensive zone was not what this team needed to do to win a critical game.
The Predators win games by playing lunch pail hockey- gritty hard working hockey. Tonight, especially in the offensive zone, that effort was lacking.
There are positive aspects of this game that the team can build upon. Pekka Rinne was spectacular, especially in the first period. The defensive effort was solid after the first period, except for two breakdowns that ended up in our net. Marty Erat and Joel Ward were back on the ice.
The fact is that the Predators got away from what has made them successful in the offensive zone, and it cost them tonight. This team cannot get away from who they are: gritty, blue collar hockey players that work hard for dirty goals. That aspect of their game was missing tonight.
In looking at the compressed schedule, everyone knew that 17 games in the month of March would be a grind. For the Predators to be successful and get into position to secure a playoff spot, they had to be strong in this stretch. In March, the Predators went 11-5-1, capturing 23 out of a possible 34 points.
There are four games left in the regular season. Eight vital points. There are teams chasing the Predators that would like nothing more than to see us falter in these last four games. Those eight points determine a playoff seed. Those eight points are critical.
The next opportunity to get back to playing Predator hockey comes Thursday night against the Blues. They would like nothing more than to steal those two points from the Predators. This team has to vanquish the teams below them in the standings. It's your opportunity to do just that, boys. It's your opportunity to get back to playing Predator hockey.
It was a solid March campaign. There is no resting on this effort however. On Thursday, it's time to bring it.
It's time to start playing Predator hockey again