The Predators battled for the right to keep possession of the final Wild Card spot on Tuesday night in Minnesota, but fell to the Wild, 3-1.
The loss is Nashville’s second in two nights and sees them fall to 10th in the West. Although the Preds made a late push to tie the game late in regulation, they were only able to convert on one of their 38 shots against Minnesota goaltender Alex Stalock.
Craig Smith scored on the power play in the third period, and Nashville put 17 pucks on net in the final frame, but a slow start led to the final score.
“I was disappointed in the first period,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “It looked like we were playing the same game in the first period [that we saw last night in a loss to Edmonton], and we paid for it. At the end of the day, that cost us the game… I will give the guys credit, I thought we came back and battled hard in the second and third period, but it’s tough when you make decisions or do things that are going to beat yourself in this League, particularly when [you’re on the second half of a] back-to-back.”
“We did have a push at the end, but the first period wasn’t good at all from us,” Preds Captain Roman Josi said. “We didn’t win, and we need points right now. We’ve got to be better.”
Minnesota claimed a 2-0 advantage after the game’s opening period courtesy of goals from Luke Kunin and former Predators forward Kevin Fiala.
Nashville started to pile up shots in the final two periods, as they attempted to dig their way out of a multi-goal deficit. The Preds put 15 shots on net in the second and 17 more in the third.
Penalty trouble prevented the visitors from completing more of a rally. Nashville’s penalty kill went an impressive 7-for-7 on the night, but the constant state of retreating back to defense stymied the Predators’ chances to look for more goals.
Nashville’s lone goal of the evening came off the stick of Smith and cut the deficit to 3-1 with roughly 15 minutes remaining in regulation. The Predators took three more trips to the penalty box after that moment, however, and never came closer than two goals down.
“In the third, we made a push, but took too many penalties,” Josi said. “We had three penalties in the third, and it’s hard to come back from a two-goal deficit [like that].”
The Preds pulled Juuse Saros for an extra attacker, while they were also on a power play during the final minutes of regulation, but Stalock turned aside all six shots they mustered during the man advantage.
“It’s such a tight race right now,” Preds forward Mikael Granlund said. “[Whether] you lose or you win, you just have to keep moving forward and start preparing for the next one… It’s a tough loss, but you know what? We just have to keep moving forward from here.”
The Predators’ three-game winning streak has now turned into a three-contest skid, and they will return home to begin a home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars, which starts on Thursday.
“The way the race is going, this is going to be something that’s going to go right down to the wire,” Hynes said. “We need to take a day tomorrow, and we need to regroup. We’ve got a big two-game series against Dallas, and that’s something that’s going to be important. We’ve got to take the lessons out of this one, and then we’ve got to make sure we come back Thursday with the right mindset. We’ve got to move on and be ready for Dallas and play better hockey than we have the last two games.”
Nashville will be prepared to host Dallas in a couple days, but the club will also take Wednesday to pause and attempt to help the healing process start after Music City was devastated by a tornado during the early morning hours of Tuesday.
“For us, it’s our community, and we feel for the community,” Hynes said. “We’re going to certainly try to do all that we can, as an organization and a team, to try to help people that are in need. Hopefully, things turn out for the best.”
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Predators recalled forward Yakov Trenin from Milwaukee. Center Ryan Johansen (illness) and defenseman Dan Hamhuis (lower-body, day-to-day) did not dress for Nashville on Tuesday.
The Predators will now return to Nashville to begin a home-and-home set with the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.