Mikael Granlund scored his first goal as member of the Predators, but it wasn't enough as Nashville fell to the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-3 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The loss snaps Nashville's two-game win streak and sees the Canes sweep the two-game season series.
The Predators and Hurricanes went back and forth on the evening, especially in the third period, but Carolina was always one step ahead of the home team, and the Preds eventually ran out of time.
"We were better in the second and third, but we were chasing the game," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "With the penalties right off the bat, I felt like we didn't get any rhythm on the bench. When we did, we were slow, we were not up to the speed they were at. I thought they controlled the first period. I thought the second and third period we were pushing back, but at that point you're chasing the game. We have to be cleaner at the beginning of the game to avoid those penalties and try to get into a rhythm at 5-on-5."
"It was a tough start," Preds forward Craig Smith said. "I thought we got ourselves in a little bit of trouble in the beginning. I don't think we meant to get that many penalties at the start of the game, but it happened. We were able to deal with the penalties well, and our penalty-kill unit played great. We were able to build a little momentum off that, but they're a great transitional team and that made it tough. We just ran out of time tonight."
Nashville's penalty kill went to work early as the Preds took three penalties in the first 4:17 of the contest, but the group managed to kill an extended 5-on-3 in the process, thanks in part to stellar play of Juuse Saros in net.
However, Nino Niederreiter scored twice later in the opening frame, including one on the power play with less than a minute to play to give Carolina a 2-0 advantage after one.
Video: CAR@NSH: Smith picks the corner on Mrazek
The Preds got on the board less than three minutes into the second stanza when Smith blasted home his 18th of the season in a period that saw Nashville come out with a much-improved effort.
Video: CAR@NSH: Boyle cleans up in front to trim deficit
In the third period, the two clubs went back and forth with the Preds unable to ever catch up to Carolina. After the Canes went up 3-1, Brian Boyle tallied to make it a one-goal game again. Carolina then got their fourth, but with less than three minutes to play in regulation, Granlund was eventually awarded his first with the Preds to cut the lead once more.
Video: CAR@NSH: Granlund nets first goal with Predators
The Hurricanes added an empty-netter before the night was through, with the Preds saying they were stuck chasing the game throughout the night.
"I feel like we need to produce more offense, get more zone time, longer shifts in their end," defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "I feel like we're kind of one and done right now. In the second period I thought we were really good; we were spending a lot of time in their zone. That's where we want to get to, and how we want to play but we haven't had enough of that lately. I think that's a huge part. It's hard for us to play defense all the time, that wears you down. It's a lot better being in the offensive zone."
The Predators will get back to practice on Monday before jetting off to California, and they'll be looking to take the positives from Saturday night - especially the middle frame - in their suitcases.
"We dominated that period, and we probably should have scored more than one," Ekholm said of the second. "We could have for sure played a lot better, but at the same time if we start playing like we did in that second period, we're going to start winning a lot of games."
Video: Predators thank Scott Hartnell for years in Nashville
Preds forward Filip Forsberg missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Predators will now embark to California for a three-game trip next week, beginning on Tuesday night in Anaheim. Nashville will then make stops in Los Angeles and San Jose before returning home after St. Patrick's Day.
Video: NSH Recap: Comeback falls short in 5-3 loss