The Nashville Predators hoped to have a February campaign that was as good as their January effort, where the team went 11-2. They faced a tall order in the form of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Predators gave Pekka Rinne a rare night off and started Anders Lindback in net, while the Flyers went with their starter, Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Predators were attempting to sweep their two game series with the Flyers after capturing a 4-2 decision in Nashville just 19 days ago.
The first period was a track meet with both teams moving the puck up and down the ice and creating some chances.. Nashville had the better of the first period in shots with a 12-6 advantage, but it was the Flyers that found the back of the net first. Wayne Simmonds took the puck off the boards and worked to the high slot against Ryan Suter. Simmonds spun quickly around Suter and let a backhand shot go that beat a screened Lindback for the only score of the period at 15:41.
In the second period, the Predators had to kill off 1:34 of a Flyers two man advantage as Gabriel Bourque was in the box serving a too many men on the ice bench minor and Ryan Suter was called for delay of game for clearing the puck over the glass. The Predators PK unit came up big and managed to kill the penalty.
Just as Suter's penalty was about to expire, a melee broke out in front of Lindback, and after the resulting penalties were meted out, the Predators had a power play. As was the trend in this game, the Flyers managed to kill off the penalty. Through two periods, the Predators power play was 0-4 as the Flyers penalty killers did a very good job of thwarting the Predators effort.
Shortly after the Predators power play had expired, Matt Read stole the puck from Kevin Klein at the Flyers blue line and drove in on Lindback. His snap shot from the face off circle beat Lindback cleanly to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 14:32 of the second period.
The first 40 minutes of this contest saw the Predators power play become ineffective, and more troubling was the fact that the Predators only managed 4 shots on goal in the second period. Obviously, the offensive effort by the Predators was going to have to improve significantly if they were going to get back in this game.
The third period saw the Predators skating hard and controlling the puck and creating scoring chances. This was the way they were going to have to play to get back in this game.
Their efforts were rewarded at 8:36 of the third period as Craig Smith found a pinching Ryan Suter just inside the face off circle and Suter's quick wrist shot beat Bryzgalov to make the score 2-1 and give the Predators new life in this game. Matt Halischuk started the play by keeping control of the puck down low, and once again, the Predators were getting production from the young guys on the roster.
The Predators continued to move their feet and put pressure on the Flyers. They were generating some good scoring chances, but needed to bury a shot.
The Predators short circuited their momentum when Jerred Smithson was called for interference. The Flyers tallied a power play goal as Wayne Simmonds gathered in a rebound of a Claude Giroux shot at the top of the crease and hammered home the puck to give the Flyers a 3-1 lead at 15:19 of the third period.
With Lindback pulled for the extra attacker, Claude Giroux potted an empty net goal at 1:55 to give the Flyers a 4-1 lead and the game.
While the Predators failed to win this game, I did like their compete level in the third period. They skated hard and created some quality scoring chances, but could not bury the game tying goal. Shots were 11-11 in the third period, but the Predators forecheck created some good opportunities. Finishing their chances was the missing element for the Predators.
So for the Predators, it is time to get back on the horse and start another winning streak. That begins Saturday at home against St. Louis.
My three stars:
1. Wayne Simmonds
2. Ilya Bryzgalov
3. Craig Smith