NASHVILLE - A more inexperienced Carolina Hurricanes' roster couldn't quite keep up with a near Opening Night-ready Nashville Predators squad in a 3-0 preseason loss.
Anton Forsberg made 37 saves in net for the Hurricanes, while Mattias Ekholm scored twice in the third period.
Here are five takeaways from the Canes' fourth preseason game.
1. Strong Effort from the Kids
The roster match-up was what it was; that's the preseason. In this case, the Hurricanes brought to Nashville a roster light on experience - they still have 40 players in camp, after all - while the Predators countered with a near final group.
And, you know what? The Canes went toe-to-toe with them and nearly took a 0-0 score into the second intermission.
Video: Ekholm nets two in Predators' 3-0 win vs. Hurricanes
"We knew they had a really good team on paper today," Forsberg said. "I thought we battled really hard and played a team game."
"That was how it should look. We didn't back down. I thought we created a lot of chances, but obviously we didn't get any to go in," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "I thought it was a pretty competitive game overall."
After being pleased with his team's effort in a shutout win in Tampa in the preseason opener, Brind'Amour hasn't been as enthused in the two games since - until tonight, even in a 3-0 loss.
"The results don't matter, but the process does," he said. "It looked like how we want to play. We were doing some good things. Yeah, we had some breakdowns and that, but that's to be expected with the inexperience we had. Overall, I thought it was a really good effort."
2. Forsberg Flexes in Net
Anton Forsberg anchored the Hurricanes' stellar effort with an eye-catching performance of his own in net. Forsberg played the entirety of the game, the first for a Canes' goaltender this preseason, and made 37 saves on 40 shots.
"I had a couple good saves, and I felt like I was in the game," he said.
Take Forsberg's body of work in the first period, for instance. He had to be dialed in from the drop of the puck, as Viktor Arvidsson broke into the zone with speed right off the draw and had his wrist shot turned away. In total, Forsberg stopped all 15 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes, a good few of which were quality scoring opportunities.
"He was great. That was huge," Brind'Amour said. "Kept us in the game."
Video: CAR@NSH: Forsberg uses glove to rob Turris
Forsberg came up with his best save of the night in the second period when Arvidsson and Kyle Turris rushed in on a 2-on-1 rush. Arvidsson dished off to Turris for the one-timer, and Forsberg stretched across the crease to make the spectacular glove save and preserve a scoreless tie.
"I didn't really have time to think that much. I was kind of waiting for the pass," Forsberg said. "Once it went, I was just hoping he'd shoot the puck because if he would have given it back, I would have been screwed."
3. Special Teams Glimpse
Since results are ultimately meaningless in the preseason, being able to analyze the process in certain situations is a particular benefit. On Wednesday, both teams got a workout on special teams; the Canes had two power plays, while Nashville had five, including a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage in the first period.
The Canes killed off that 5-on-3 and the tail-end of the ensuing 5-on-4, but Craig Smith notched a power-play marker late in the second period to put the Predators ahead, 1-0.
"I don't have our power play guys in or even our penalty killers, so it's kind of like just wasting time for me," Brind'Amour said. "I would have just rather let it go, but you've got to call the penalties. That doesn't help right now."
For Forsberg, seeing so much work with a shorthanded team in front of him allowed him to tally some reps in a game situation.
"t's more about finding the puck through screens. Arvidsson, he's good in front of the net, even though he's a small guy," he said. "It was good to just try to find the puck. That's one of the things I thought was hard last game, to find the timing and see the puck, but it was a big difference today."
4. Making an Impact
Opening Night is just a week away, and additional training camp cuts are looming. The Canes will have to trim their roster by 17 players in the coming days, so tonight's exhibition match was perhaps a final chance for some to make an impact.
Julien Gauthier, who has played in all four preseason games, again caught the head coach's eye with three shots on goal in 13:53 of ice time. Martin Necas fired a shot off the post and recorded a hit in just over 15 minutes of ice time.
"[Marty] had some good chances in the third. He was actually dynamic," Brind'Amour said. "I think he had a couple pretty good looks."
5. Another Injury Concern
One of the downsides to the preseason is, of course, the ever-present threat of injury in inconsequential games. Erik Haula left the second exhibition game with lower-body discomfort and returned to game action tonight in Nashville, but, in another injury scare, Ryan Dzingel exited the game with a lower-body injury.
Off the opening draw in the second period, a Predators player reached for the puck while falling to the ice. In the process, he landed on Dzingel, whose left leg bent awkwardly underneath him. He crumpled to the ice and then hobbled to the dressing room. Dzingel was held out of the balance of the contest, and Brind'Amour had no further update after the game.
The Hurricanes and Predators will stage a rematch on Friday night in Raleigh.