For the third consecutive game, the frustrated Nashville Predators generated chance after chance on the opposition, but could only muster one goal, falling to the Colorado Avalanche by a 3-1 margin on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center.
The Predators pillaged the Avs with shots for all 60 minutes, outshooting them 32-16, but couldn’t solve netminder Peter Budaj, striking countless posts and having chances trickle just wide.
For the second time in three nights, the Preds and Avs played a scoreless opening 20 minutes, but Saturday’s first period was far less lackluster than the one seen in Nashville. Both squads generated their fair share of scoring chances, and the Predators dominated the shots-on-goal department with 17 shots to Colorado’s five. The penalty kill also continued its steady play, extinguishing three hooking calls in the first 11-and-a-half minutes while only giving up just two shots.
In his return to the lineup, having served a five-game suspension handed down for actions taking place on Dec. 1 in Montreal, Scott Nichol had the best opportunity of the period, rocketing a heavy slap shot on Budaj while in on a shorthanded breakaway.
Nashville continued to control play as the second commenced, methodically cycling the puck in the Avalanche zone. But it was the home team that would strike first, scoring the opening goal at 4:06 of the middle frame.
Chris Mason freezes the puck following a try by Colorado leading scorer Paul Stastny.
Sophomore Paul Stastny was the scorer, adding to his team-leading goals and points total with a one-timer past Chris Mason from the high slot. First-year Av Ryan Smyth set up his centerman with a tape-to-tape pass from along the boards.
Just more than 10 minutes later in the frame at 14:50, Marek Svatos put Colorado up by two goals with a great individual play. Svatos got the tally by eluding a defender behind the net, circling out into prime scoring position, and following his shot. The first try was kicked aside by Mason, but the rebound came right back to him, and he put his second chance into the top-right corner of the net.
Nashville would respond though, cutting the lead in half a mere 53 seconds later when Martin Gelinas took a page out of Svatos’ book and scored on his own second-chance opportunity. Marek Zidlicky started the play with a shot into a heap of traffic in front of the Colorado net. Gelinas harnessed the try and fired a quick backhander in on Budaj that created a healthy rebound. The Preds vet then spun around his man, and popped the loose puck into an open net.
Zidlicky’s helper gives him five assists in the past seven outings, while Nichol’s also assisted, collecting his first point since Nov. 10 against Columbus. Gelinas now has four goals in his last nine games, after scoring just once in his first 15 games as a Predator.
Balanced, back-and-forth action was the theme of the opening 10 minutes of the third, but it was Colorado that played the role of opportunists again at the 10:53 mark, taking a 3-1 lead on a shot Mason never saw. With Budaj off for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty, Jordan Leopold flipped an innocent-looking shot on net that somehow found its way through a host of players en route to the back of the net far side.
Vernon Fiddler pressures puck carrier Ryan Smyth as Chris Mason waits for a potential shot.
The frustration continued for the Preds following the goal, as both J.P. Dumont and Dan Hamhuis struck posts in a three-minute span.
As time ran down Nashville came in droves, pulling Mason for the extra skater with 1:27 remaining in regulation. The Preds pelted Budaj with shots from all over with sometimes as many as four players crowding the crease, but couldn’t get back within one goal.
The power play went 0-for-2 on the evening, while the penalty kill stymied all four opportunities against and have now killed 30 of the last 32 chances they have faced.
The Predators now head to the Twin Cities for a Tuesday-evening clash with the Minnesota Wild. All the action can be caught on FSN South and WGFX-104.5 The Zone starting at 7 p.m. CT.
Game Notes: Nashville scratched Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein and Darcy Hordichuk, while Colorado sat Brad Richardson, Scott Parker and Tyler Arnason… Antti Pihlstrom made his NHL debut tonight wearing No. 42 for the Predators. He played 9:08 predominately alongside Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont… The Predators have outshot opponents by 109 shots in the last 14 games… Dan Hamhuis’ 21:51 played led all Predators… With his assist tonight, Marek Zidlicky continues to add to his points total which is tops among Preds defensemen (1g-14a-15pts)… Greg de Vries logged a game-high 3:13 of shorthanded ice time… Scott Nichol won nine of 12 faceoffs (75%) in his return to the lineup… Greg Zanon notched four hits, while Jed Ortmeyer had three blocked shots, both game highs… Nashville is 1-2-0 this season against Colorado. These teams will meet for the final time this season on Jan. 22 in Denver.
1 - 0 COL
2 - 0 COL
2 - 1 COL
3 - 1 COL