The Nashville Predators’ offense produced plenty of chances, but the goal scoring started too late for the home team, and the Colorado Avalanche used third-period goals by Ryan Smyth and Ian Laperriere to defeat the Predators, 2-1, at the Sommet Center on Thursday night. Nashville finishes a four-game homestand with a 1-3-0 record, and now head on the road for three straight against Western Conference foes.
The majority of the contest was a showcase of goaltenders playing at the top of their games – Chris Mason for the Predators and Peter Budaj for the Avalanche. Both men stopped 30 shots on the night.
“This is not characteristic of our hockey team, we are usually really tough to play against at home,” Mason said. “Two points separate you from a playoff spot, and with games at hand, you have to take advantage of it. We just had a difficult time getting pucks through tonight.”
The game opened with a bit of a feeling-out period, with both teams emphasizing puck possession. A makeshift line of Vernon Fiddler flanked by Jordin Tootoo and Martin Gelinas provided the first solid chances of the contest around the frame’s midpoint, firing at will on Budaj.
“You are playing with different guys each night out there because of a few guys out of our lineup but we aren’t making excuses,” Fiddler said. “We have to find a way to find the back of the net regardless of how we do it. We are creating opportunities, we just have to capitalize on them a little more.”
The back-and-forth continued through the end of the opening 20 minutes, with very few scoring chances and the Avalanche holding a 7-6 shots-on-goal advantage. Mason showed no rust after missing a couple of games with the flu, playing with confidence, and seemingly effortlessly gobbling up all rebounds.
“We have to give Mase some help out there because he is making some big stops for us,” Fiddler said. “We have to get back to the basics of driving to the net, getting pucks on net, and mucking for rebounds.”
Pace quickened as the second period commenced, and while the Predators showed more jump, Colorado came closest to scoring. Greg Zanon saved a goal three minutes in with a swinging stick in the crease that prevented a Brad Richardson tap-in, and a Ville Koistinen played an Ian Laperriere breakaway masterfully at 4:35, squashing his opportunity but not drawing a penalty.
12:24 into the middle period, Nashville appeared to break the scoreless tie, and even heard the goal horn sound when Radek Bonk poked a rebound try past Budaj to the net’s right-hand side. Referee Rob Martell immediately ruled that it was no goal because his whistle had blown the play dead prior to the puck crossing the goal line, and upon video review, that call stood, to keep the game scoreless.
“I am going to have to get clarification on that, because I was told they were blowing the whistle,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “But if you look at it, the puck was in there very quickly and Radek had nothing to do with the goal except for putting it in the net.”
The energy level remained high for the continuation of the second frame, with a number of close calls at both ends of the ice, but the game nonetheless remained 0-0.
It was Colorado that finally broke through with the first goal at 4:58 of the third. A neutral-zone giveaway on the boards allowed Smyth to counter attack the opposite direction, launching a rocket from the edge of the left face-off circle that snuck past Mason five-hole. Jaroslav Hlinka had the takeaway and lone assist.
Jed Ortmeyer attempts to poke the puck past Colorado goaltender Peter Budaj.
Nashville’s intensity level picked up following the goal, and it generated its first full power play of the night at 12:04 of the third. The Preds came oh so close to finding the back of the net, but the bounces just didn’t seem to be going the home team’s way.
“The puck is just not bouncing our way right now, we just have to keep doing things the right way and hopefully things will start to pay off for us,” Fiddler said.
The Avalanche deflated the Predators and those in attendance with goal No. 2 of the period at 16:45 of the third. Trying for the equalizer, Nashville got caught pinching low, springing an Avs three-on-two that left the Preds’ defense scrambling. Hlinka circled behind the net, and found Laperriere on the doorstep for an easy redirect into the net.
The resilient Preds refused to go quietly though, and closed the gap to 2-1 with just 21 seconds remaining. Alexander Radulov scored the goal, picking up a blocked shot in the slot and sneaking it past a screened Budaj. Marek Zidlicky provided the point shot, picking up his fourth assist in the last seven games. David Legwand fed Zidlicky from the base of the right face-off circle to notch his 16th helper of the year, tying him with Martin Erat for the team lead in that category.
Following a timeout, the Preds launched an all-out assault in the final 20 seconds, nearly getting the game-tying goal, but couldn’t harness a bouncing puck.
Budaj comes up with one of his 30 saves on the night in the first period on a Vernon Fiddler attempt from in close.
The Preds outshot Colorado 15-11 in the third, making the final shot clock read 32-31 in favor of the visitors. Both squads finished 0-for-2 on the power play.
“There is a little more urgency at home,” Trotz said. “We have had some good teams come through here with Vancouver, Detroit, Anaheim and Colorado. We were winning a lot of one-goal games early, but haven’t been getting those lately. Those are a little harder to take because you are just one puck away from one or two points every night. It is frustrating, but we have to focus on what we have to do better, and get ready for Saturday in Colorado.”
Both the Preds and the Avs now head to Denver for the back end of this home-and-home series on Saturday night at 8 p.m. CT. The Predators will then play games at Minnesota (Tuesday) and Chicago (Wednesday), before coming back to the Music City for a Dec. 22 clash with the Los Angeles Kings. Tickets to both tonight’s contest, and the game vs. L.A. are available by calling (615) 770-PUCK, logging onto ticketmaster.com or nashvillepredators.com and by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office located in the arena tower.
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Kevin Klein, Martin Erat and Scott Nichol from the lineup, while Colorado scratched Scott Parker, T.J. Hensick and Tyler Arnason… Preds are 6-6 in one-goal games and 2-4-0 in December… Nashville is 9-4-0 in the past 13 meetings dating back to Nov. 24, 2003… Tonight was just the third time in the last 13 outings Nashville has been outshot, accumulating a 439-346 (plus-93) shot advantage in that span… The penalty kill has killed 25 of the last 27 chances against… For the second consecutive game, David Legwand had the most ice time for the Predators (21:39)… Shea Weber doled out a game-high four hits… Legwand has assists in back-to-back games, while Alexander Radulov notched his second goal in three games…Chris Mason had a 104:58 shutout streak vs. Colorado snapped with the first of two third period goals by the Avs… This was Colorado’s last trip to the Sommet Center this season – these teams play in Denver on Saturday, and again on Jan. 22.
1 - 0 COL
2 - 0 COL