The Nashville Predators just had the New York Islanders' number this season.
The Islanders lost to the Predators 5-0 on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, their second loss to Nashville this season after falling 8-3 at Nassau Coliseum back on Dec. 17.
Craig Smith' first-career hat trick powered the Preds, while Mattias Ekholm and Rocco Grimaldi also scored for Nashville, who got a 31-save shutout from Juuse Saros. The loss snapped the Islanders' two-game winning streak and the uncharacteristic loss did not sit well with the team postgame.
"We have to move on from it, but we're going to think about this one, this one stings," captain Anders Lee said. "It's not a good effort, it's not representative of who we want to be, so we'll learn from it forsure, regroup here and figure a couple of things out and be ready for Vegas."
Video: NYI Recap: Islanders shut out by Predators
SMITH SCORES FIRST HAT TRICK:
The Predators set the tone of the game early, as Smith scored on Nashville's first shot, 35 seconds into the game. Smith picked Nick Leddy's pocket deep in the zone before threading the needle over Greiss' shoulder from a sharp angle. Smith put the Predators up 2-0 at 7:41 of the first, snapping a shot past Greiss from the hashmarks, scoring his second goal on Nashville's third shot of the game.
Mattias Ekholm made it 3-0 at 13:33, as he snapped a wrister high blocker side past Greiss, giving the Preds three goals on their first eight shots. That ended Greiss' night as he was replaced by Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 16-of-18 shots in relief.
"We didn't have a very good start, we gave them a lot of opportunities and they buried on three of them," Lee said. "It just wasn't a good enough effort just to get us going in the game tonight. We have to have better starts than that. That's just a big hole and then they worked us pretty good for a bit there."
The goalie change didn't turn the Islanders' fortunes, as Grimaldi snapped a wrister high past Varlamov to make it 4-0 at 4:41 of the second period. Smith eventually capped off his hat trick at 11:38 of the second period, finding space in front alone before beating Varlamov high from the slot.
Smith's goal came on his third shot of the night. The 30-year-old now also scored twice in the teams' first meeting, giving him five over the two contests. Smith's hat-trick tally marked a run of 12-straight Predators' goals vs the Islanders dating back to the third period of their first meeting.
Head Coach Barry Trotz said he felt turnovers were the main culprit in Thursday's lopsided loss.
"They score two goals on the first three shots, we're not playing that poorly yet," Trotz said. "I thought we were coming pretty good, but an unforced error leads to the fourth goal. We were never able to get any traction to get back in the game. It was on us. It was our turnovers and our lack of execution. It was unacceptable, the number of turnovers that we had and really not making firm plays.
ISLES SHUT OUT FOR THIRD TIME THIS SEASON:
After piling up 10 goals over the past two games, the New York Islanders offense was stymied on Thursday night.
It wasn't for lack of trying, as they peppered Saros with 27 shots through the first two periods (31 total), but couldn't solve the Preds' netminder. Anders Lee had some of the Islanders' best chances early, ultimately racking up a game-high eight shots on net.
"When the game was on the line at 2-0, 3-0, there was some big stops by their goalie," Mathew Barzal said. "It really changed the momentum."
Thursday marked the third time the Isles have been shut out this season. They were also blanked in Anaheim on Nov. 25 and in Toronto on Jan. 4. The Isles had scored at least four goals in four of their last five games entering Thursday.
The Islanders continue their road trip through the southwest on Saturday night when they take on the Vegas Golden Knights. Puck drop is at 10:30 p.m.