DENVER -- There was a large garbage can in the middle of the Nashville Predators dressing room late Monday, and with the balls of tape and pizza crusts, that's exactly where defenseman Roman Josi wanted to deposit the game he and his team just played.
The Colorado Avalanche came out like the proverbial house on fire in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round. The Predators could find nothing more than water pistols to combat the flames in what would be a 5-3 loss.
[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Avalanche series coverage]
The Predators, who lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, will have to find a way to tighten up against the run-and-gun Avalanche after giving up 11 goals in three games and nine in the past two. Game 4 is at Pepsi Center on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, FS-TN, ALT, SN, TVAS).
"We didn't play very well in the first period," Josi said. "They came out right away the better team and got a couple goals.
Indeed, the Avalanche almost ran the Predators out of the rink, storming to a 3-0 lead by 18:07 of the first period, now having scored first in all three games of this series. It took Colorado 6:36 to open the scoring in Game 1, 2:34 in Game 2 and 1:50 in Game 3.
"We got what we deserved," Josi said. "We didn't really show up the first period. Tonight, they were the better team in the first. … They're a good team over there. If you don't start well, they're going to make you pay. They're fast. If you don't play well, we're not going to have a chance. We have to talk about this one, put it in the trash and react the next game."
This wasn't Josi's finest hour, finishing at minus-3, often scrambling in vain to contain Avalanche forwards. But he wasn't the only one who wanted to scrap the result. Fellow defenseman Ryan Ellis also was minus-3, as were forwards Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne was given the mercy hook by coach Peter Laviolette at 4:25 of the second period for backup Juuse Saros after surrendering the fourth Avalanche goal. Rinne's night ended with 11 saves on 15 shots for a .733 save percentage.
Video: The crew discuss the Avs' 5-3 win in Game 3
"We just weren't very good in front of him," Laviolette said of Rinne. "I didn't think we were giving him the support he needed. It wasn't a sharp game for us. We left him in there after the first to see if we would be better, to try to address some things. We (didn't), so we got him out of there and put Juuse in there to try to change the momentum, change the swing in the game."
Laviolette's postgame comments ran 70 seconds, the coach saying twice that "I'll have to go back and look at it" when asked about Nashville's quicksand start and shaky net-front defensive presence. No doubt the Predators, winners of the Presidents' Trophy as the best regular-season team in the NHL, will address their problems in practice Tuesday.
In the day leading up to Game 3, everyone on the Avalanche discussed the need to bolt from the starting gate, tapping the home crowd's energy. Colorado did exactly that, swarming the Predators' end and getting on the board with Blake Comeau's goal while the ice was still wet.
"They're embracing that underdog role and being desperate right away," said Predators forward Austin Watson, who scored Nashville's third goal. "It's not anything we haven't expected. They were first on pucks, they were more physical, they were faster. Normally that leads to more scoring chances and hence, the first goal."
Center Colton Sissons said that not sleepwalking into the game is the responsibility of everyone on the Predators.
"We're just going to have a make a decision in our locker room to do it," said Sissons, who scored Nashville's second goal. "We've got to be the hungrier team right from the get-go. It's a mindset. We were definitely a lot better (in the third period), but it's going to be a new test in Game 4. No matter how well we played in the third period, we're going to have to find a way to have a full 60-minute effort."
Both Sissons and Josi said the Predators must sweep the ice clean in front of Rinne, having left the goalie to fend for himself while the Avalanche crushed in on him virtually at will.
"Nothing (Rinne) can do, they were all A-plus chances in front of the net," Josi said. "We've got to take those away and move them outside."
Video: NSH@COL, Gm3: Bednar talks fast start, home crowd
Sissons, who scored at 7:12 of the third period, said, "We gave up some Grade-A chances right in front of (Rinne). We hung him out to dry with some pretty talented players. We're going to have to clean that up, obviously, limit those chances. It was just a problem with the players in front of (Rinne) early on. We've got to be a lot better for him, that's for sure."
The Predators will have little time to solve their slow-start problem that is now a troubling trend. On Monday, the Avalanche not only scored first, they poured it on and dug Nashville a hole that would be too deep for their visitor to escape.
"It's nothing that we haven't talked about," Watson said. "But there's a difference between talking about it and going out there and performing, and being ready to battle right from the drop of the puck. We got better as the game went on, but we weren't ready right away."
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