The Nashville Predators battled the Philadelphia Flyers, the Eastern Conference points leader skate to skate before falling 3-2 at the Wells Fargo Center on a late goal by Ville Leino. This is the fourth straight loss for the Predators.
The Flyers opened with Sergei Bobrovsky in net while the Predators started Anders Lindback. Once again, the netminder for the Predators had to be sharp early as the Flyers generated some good chances and the Predator offensive effort was characteristically slow starting.
The Flyers drew first blood as Jeff Carter ripped a wrist shot over the glove hand of Lindback from just inside the face off circle at 10:18 of the first period.
The Predators did not record their second shot on net until the 11:10 mark of the first period. It was going to be important for the Predators to answer the Flyer marker and take away some of their energy.
That answer came at 11:17 of the first period as Cody Franson stick handled the puck through the Flyer defense and put a shot on net that Bobrovsky kicked out with his pad. Marcel Goc was driving the net on the off wing and buried the rebound to tie the game at 1. The play was made by the deft stickhandling of Franson, who was impressive on the rush.
That tally reversed the momentum and energized he Predators,and this team awoke and started playing some very good hockey. The forecheck boxed in the Flyers for the remainder of the first period and totally stymied their offensive flow in the second.
The ability of the Predators to slow the Flyers in the neutral zone created scoring opportunities off turnovers for the Predators throughout the second period. The forechecking effort was excellent and frustrated the Flyers, who responded by taking the body and trying to amp up the physical level of play. Daniel Carcillo spent much of the game running around hitting people, including a dangerous boarding hit on Marcel Goc. Kevin Klein stepped up to drop the gloves against Carcillo and got a few good shots in while keeping Carcillo tied up. Props to Kleiner for stepping up to defend his teammate against Philly's resident cheap shot artist.
The Predators appeared to score late in the second period as Shane O'Brien fired a shot that found the back of the net, but the goal was waved off by referee Dennis LaRue, who said that Patric Hornqvist interfered with Bobrovsky with incidental contact. No penalty was called on the play, but the tally was disallowed.
Nashville outshot the Flyers 13-8 in the second period, and outworked them throughout, but had nothing to show for the effort. At the end of two periods, the scored remained tied at 1.
Ville Leino would break that tie at 6:55 of the third period on the power play as he would knock home a rebound of a Jeff Carter shot.
The Predators would once again answer as their power play would finally click. Joel Ward fought for position just outside the blue paint and was able to gather in a rebound of a Marty Erat shot and slide the puck past Bobrovsky at 10:18 of the third period.
Leino would victimize the Predators once again with a spinning backhand move at 16:46 that was highlight reel material. Leino got the puck in the low slot and avoided a sliding Marty Erat. He spun around and lifted a backhand over the shoulder of Lindback to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead.
The Predators could not get a puck past Bobrovsky over the remaining 3:14, and once again a solid effort went for naught.
The losing streak stands at 4, and this streak has been particularly frustrating because several of the losses came in games where the Predators played well and had an opportunity to win. This team has to get over that hump and start putting games away. The occasional defensive lapse, the consistently slow starts, the goals given up in the third period have bitten the Predators in the ass, and winning teams don't get bitten. Right now, this team has to play a full 60 minutes and perhaps most importantly, believe they can win these games.
The road to the playoffs is going to be difficult. It will take the maximum effort in every game, because every team the Predators will face is gunning for one of the 8 playoff spots.
It's time to put together a winning effort.
It's time to end these phrustrating losses.
My three stars:
1. Ville Leino
2. Jeff Carter
3. Marcel Goc