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Leafs battle in tight, defensive duel in Nashville

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

The Maple Leafs fought hard on Tuesday night but lost 3-0 to the Predators on the road.

LEAFS CAN'T PRODUCE ANY OFFENCE IN FIRST PERIOD, TRAIL BY SINGLE GOAL ENTERING SECOND

The Maple Leafs were coming into Tuesday's road game against the Predators following a flat Toronto effort on the road against Ottawa Saturday. The Leafs were able to force the Predators into taking two penalties during the first in Nashville, but were outshot 9-6 in the frame and trailed 1-0 as of the first intermission - a result of a Predators goal by forward Brian Boyle at 4:47 of the first - continuing a frustrating pattern of slow starts of late for Toronto.

LEAFS' GOAL-PRODUCING ISSUES CONTINUE IN SECOND, BUT THEIR DEFENCE IS PERFECT IN MIDDLE FRAME

The Leafs also failed to score in the second period, but they played an all-around better game in the middle frame - keeping Nashville from registering its first shot in the period until nearly six full minutes into the period, and outshooting the Predators 8-2. 

Toronto had a handful of solid scoring chances - including near-misses from Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner - but Nashville slowly squeezed them away from high-quality scoring areas and put down sticky tape at their blueline, keeping the Leafs' offensive zone entries from developing into anything dangerous deeper in the Predators' end.

LEAFS CONTINUE PUSHING AGAINST RINNE, BUT CAN'T SOLVE HIM, FALL TO PREDS

The story in the third period for Toronto wasn't all that different from the first two periods: the Preds played stifling, safe hockey, the Leafs came close to scoring a number of times - including a terrific John Tavares shot that Rinne had to jab his right leg pad out to keep the Buds off the scoresheet - and Nashville carves out a goal of its own to add to its lead.

In this case, Predators winger Wayne Simmonds scored his first with Nashville since being acquired from Philadelphia at the NHL trade deadline, and Nashville had a 2-0 lead at 9:13 of the third. It was a tough goal-against for the Leafs, who played very smart hockey for the grand majority of the night, and got a good effort from netminder Frederik Andersen. But the Preds are a crafty, opportunistic group that made the most of Toronto's handful of defensive breakdowns, Rinne was outstanding between the pipes for Nashville, and the home team got an empty-net goal from forward Filip Forsberg to seal the win.

The Leafs now are on a two-game losing streak, but they'll get a chance right away to put an end to it - they hit Buffalo Wednesday night to take on the free-falling Sabres (2-7-1 in their past 10 games), and they can't take Buffalo, or any team, for granted at this stage of the year. A better effort Tuesday for Toronto than they had Saturday against Ottawa, but now they have to meld their high-production offence with the stingy defence we saw Tuesday.

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