Filip Forsberg scored his 30th goal of the season, but it wasn't enough as the Nashville Predators fell by a 3-1 final to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result keeps the Preds at 89 points overall, meaning they'll have to wait until at least Saturday for a chance to clinch a spot in the postseason.
After slipping behind 2-0, a third-period push from Nashville saw them register 13 shots on goal and almost tie the game before Toronto put it out of reach with an empty-net goal, handing the Preds a second consecutive loss and keeping their magic number at three when it comes to clinching a spot.
"We have to be desperate," Forsberg said. "We know what spot we're in, and we're in a good spot, but at the same time we haven't clinched anything. We have to keep pushing. We're playing teams that are in the same spot that we are and trying to clinch as well, and our desperation could be higher."
Power-play goals from Toronto to close the first and second periods, almost at identical times - 18:42 of the first, then 18:43 of the second - gave the Maple Leafs a 2-0 advantage after 40 minutes of play.
It wasn't until the third period that Forsberg broke Frederik Andersen's shutout bid when he snapped home his 30th of the season at 9:37 to pull the Preds to within one. The tally marked the second consecutive season Forsberg has hit the 30-goal plateau, while becoming the first player in Nashville franchise history to score 30 goals in more than one season.
Video: NSH@TOR: Forsberg snaps a wrister past Andersen
The Predators continued to pressure Toronto with a power-play chance, but Andersen held his ground before Connor Brown iced it.
In his 1,000th NHL game behind the bench, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette would've preferred his team put more opportunities at the opposition net from start to finish.
"I think we were a little bit too cute in the first two periods," Laviolette said. "The whole game is about shooting the puck right now, honestly. Just get it in the offensive zone and shoot the puck. It can hit anything - it can hit them, it can hit us, it can hit a stick, it could be a rebound, there could be a second opportunity. In the third period, we had a little bit more of that mindset."
From here, the club will prepare for a full weekend which begins Saturday afternoon against division foe Minnesota. As the Predators continue to try and solidify a spot in the postseason, the focus remains simple - they can only control what happens inside of their locker room.
"Our focus is on playing the right way," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We did a lot of things well today… but we have to do that for a full 60 [minutes]. A lot of the teams that we're playing from here on, are teams that are battling for playoff spots and battling for their lives, so we've got to surpass their urgency and take it for 60 minutes."
"Our goal is to move forward and qualify for the playoffs, and we're not there," Laviolette said. "We have work to do."
After missing four games due to a lower-body injury, Preds Captain Mike Fisher returned to the Nashville lineup on Thursday night with three shots and two hits in 14:19 of ice time.
Forward Craig Smith missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Defenseman Yannick Weber missed his third consecutive game, also with an upper-body injury.
Nashville will now prepare for a busy weekend, beginning on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena with a 1 p.m. CT start against Minnesota. The Preds will then jet to St. Louis to prepare for a 3 p.m. CT meeting with the Blues on Sunday afternoon.