DALLAS -- The Nashville Predators are searching for answers after a 4-2 loss against the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Wednesday.
The Predators (18-15-6) admittedly have not had the season they envisioned; they have lost three straight games in regulation and are sixth in the Central Division, eight points behind the third-place Stars.
Nashville also trails the Edmonton Oilers by four points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
[RELATED: Complete 2020 NHL Winter Classic coverage]
"It's disappointing," Predators center Matt Duchene said. "But at the end of the day, whether we lost at home or we lost [at Cotton Bowl Stadium] or we lost it at [American Airlines Center], it's the same thing in the standings.
"We can't bury ourselves here. We've got to stay positive and keep pushing. We've got games in hand on a lot of teams and we've got some ground to make up, but we've got over half a season to do it."
Ryan Ellis sustained an upper-body injury at 2:44 of the first period after he was elbowed by Stars forward Corey Perry. The injury left the Predators with five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
"It's difficult. Everybody has to deal with injuries, but we're in a game like this and he's one of the guys that we count on for 26 minutes on the back end," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "He's such an important part of our team and he's having such a good year on the ice. Off the ice, he's a leader. You lose a piece like that, it's difficult."
"Hopefully [he's] not [out] too long, but he got banged up pretty good."
Nashville took a 2-0 lead in the first period on power-play goals from Duchene and defenseman Dante Fabbro, but Stars forward Blake Comeau scored at 18:52 of the second to make it 2-1 heading into the third period. Dallas scored three goals in the third period, including twice on the power play, and it seemed to be another example of the Predators not responding well to adversity.
"At times, I guess you could say that," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "But I love this team; I'd still take this team over any team. I still believe that we can bounce back and we can find ways to win games. But it's a disappointing feeling right now being up 2-0 and even coming into the third period being up 2-1, and then things went south pretty quick after that."
Video: NSH@DAL: Stars and Predators meet for handshakes
Despite the loss, the Predators said they were impressed by the setting at Cotton Bowl Stadium, the first outdoor game for both teams, played in front of a sellout crowd of 85,630. But the sense of urgency grows for Nashville on its four-game road trip, which continues at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-TN, NHL.TV).
"I thought that the NHL and the [Predators] and Dallas have done an unbelievable job of setting everything up," Rinne said. "Obviously that's a huge positive and a huge experience for all of us. It was a blast playing there.
"But other than that, I don't know. We're in trouble right now."