Colorado Avalanche netminder Jeremy Smith entered Thursday's contest at the Nashville Predators looking for his first NHL win.
While he and his teammates didn't manage to come out on top, he was again solid in his second career start in the sport's most prestigious and difficult echelon. The 28-year-old keeper made 25 stops in the 4-2 loss to the Preds and was between the pipes for roughly 50 attempts sent his direction at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
"I thought he was fine. He made some big saves," head coach Jared Bednar said after the match. "You think about the goals; we got coverage breakdown on the first one. The guy gets it right alone in front of the net. We had the one on the faceoff that we misread the coverage, too, and then we over-skated the puck right in the crease and left it there for them.
"So I think the one that maybe he could have had would have been off the faceoff. Quick shot, kind of jammed him a little bit, off his glove and went in the net. I thought they had some good chances. They're a dangerous team. They're going to create chances. I thought we were OK defensively, except for the second period, but he certainly made some big stops."
Smith ultimately gave the Avalanche its best chance to win the game, or at least pull even and then go from there, but a sloppy second period proved more than the visiting squad could overcome.
"We had a decent first period. We came out, we had a few chances, and then it was a 1-1 game after that. We got a couple penalty kills that did a good job," said defenseman Francois Beauchemin. "Starting in the second period, we didn't really generate much offensively. We turned a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone, the offensive zone, and they came right back at us and ended up spending almost the whole period in our zone. So that was not good enough. That's three games in a row now where we only have like 14, 13 shots after two periods. I think we got to start putting a full 60-minute effort together."
The first frame would be Colorado's most dangerous as the club managed to put 10 shots on net and come away with a 1-1 stalemate. In the middle stanza, things unraveled a bit as the Avs only mustered three pucks on Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, despite one from blueliner Patrick Wiercioch finding twine. In the third, the Avalanche sent nine shots at the cage, but nothing went in.
Meanwhile, Nashville capitalized twice on 12 shots in the second period and ultimately added an empty-netter late to seal Colorado's loss.
"The first was good. The third was good, too," Beauchemin said. "We played hard in the first and third, and in the second period, for whatever reason we were on our heels the whole period. Turned a few pucks over. They have a lot of skill over there. If you do that then they're going to make you pay."
Bednar agreed with that assessment.
"First and third were really good. Second, that was an unacceptable period," Bednar said. "In the first and third, we moved the puck hard, we used our first option, we got it up the ice quickly and we put some heat on them on our forecheck and were able to play in the offensive zone. It looked to me like in the second period, we were looking off options to move the puck up the ice. Our play in our own end became softer with the puck, especially when they had those turnovers, and they just kept coming back on us.
"Their transition game is really strong, and that's what hurt us that period. We turned the puck over, we didn't use the best option and we didn't make hard plays. Now they didn't play any different in the first or third, we just did things right and we did things harder and we executed better and we were skating on the puck. So it was good to see us come out and fight for it in the third period, but looking back at it, it's the second period that cost us. We knew it wasn't a good period when it was over."
IGINLA VS. THE PREDATORS
Colorado Avalanche veteran Jarome Iginla entered Thursday's contest at the Nashville Predators as the most historically dangerous player the club has ever faced.
The 39-year-old forward, as he's done against a few franchises around the league, had scored the most goals (39) and registered the second-most points (65) of any player against the Predators organization.
So it came as no surprise that of the members of the Avalanche to find twine, Iginla would be one of them. The Edmonton, Alberta, native recorded his 40th career goal against the team from Tennessee when the puck caromed off his skate and into the Predators' net with 2:08 remaining in the first period.
"That was a good break, but [John Mitchell] won the draw, and then him and [Andreas Martinsen] were battling high," Iginla said of the play. "Mitchy kind of stole it back and I was in front trying to get there. When he backhanded it, I was going to try and hit it with my stick, and then I just couldn't get my stick free. I didn't even know if it had enough to get across after it went off my boot at the line."
The marker tied the game 1-1 and gave the Avs some confidence heading into the first intermission. It also stood as goal No. 619 in Iginla's storied career and, as his 40th in 67 games versus Nashville, gave the Preds the honored distinction of being the one he's scored on the most.
The club isn't in uncharted territory, however. Iginla has tallied 39 markers against the Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild and has buried 38 versus his hometown Edmonton Oilers.
Iginla's eighth goal of the 2016-17 campaign is also his 111th tally registered on a Thursday, his second-most productive day of the week. Iginla has managed to bury 139 markers in 337 games played on Saturdays.
Iginla wasn't done with his marker, either. The veteran assisted on Colorado's second goal of the game to improve his point total versus Nashville to 67 (40 goals, 27 assists) in as many games.
Former Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk ranks first in all-time points scored against the Predators with 74.
Video: COL@NSH: Wiercioch bounces puck past Rinne
WIERCIOCH CHIPS IN
Colorado Avalanche rear guard Patrick Wiercioch got in on the action on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, burying a long-range backhander from inside the blueline to give the Avalanche a temporary 2-1 lead.
OK, so maybe the shot had a little luck attached to it. The puck bounced off the ice after Wiercioch's release and possibly even changed directions on netminder Pekka Rinne before it skimmed him and propelled into the net.
The tally ended a 15-game goalless drought for the 26-year-old defenseman and is his third of the season. The marker was his first against the Predators in six career contests.