The Predators outshot Columbus, including a 13-4 margin in the third period, but Nashville was unable to score on the Blue Jackets in a 3-0 loss Thursday night at Nationwide Arena. The defeat comes in Nashville's first game in five days after they had a pair of contests postponed in Dallas to start their road trip earlier in the week.
Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 32 of those Nashville shots on the night, as the Preds fell to 6-10-0 overall, including a 1-6-0 mark on the road.
Thursday night was an instance where the final score wasn't necessarily indicative of how the game played out minute by minute - Nashville had their lulls, but carried the play for the majority of the contest. But while the effort on Thursday was better than it has been in recent showings, the Preds know they have to find the back of the net in outings like this.
Video: Josi, Borowiecki look to generate more opportunities
"[Recent games before Thursday's game] weren't good games, and we didn't play well, plain and simple," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "Actually, tonight we played a lot better. I thought we had a better effort, but we need to find a way to score some goals. We created chances tonight, but you've got to put them in, plain and simple. We've got to find a way to get it done, and it's on all of us. It's every single guy - starts with me and goes down the line on. We all need to do our part."
"It's incredibly frustrating, especially when you play a good game for the most part, and you just can't find ways to get rewarded," Preds defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. "But having said that, we can't sit in here and feel sorry for ourselves and say, 'Oh, we have no puck luck offensively.' Because at this point, we've got to find ways to make our own luck. It might take a puck off someone's chin going in the net off a tip shot or something, just something silly like that, to kind of open the floodgates for us."
The game's opening period was about to end without a goal, but with 17 seconds remaining, Jackets forward Cam Atkinson's shot deflected off the skate of Preds defenseman Matt Benning, arched up into the air and came back down into the net behind Juuse Saros for a 1-0 Columbus lead.
The Blue Jackets doubled their advantage with a goal from Max Domi in the second stanza, and although the Preds outplayed their opponent in the final 20 minutes, they were never able to beat Merzlikins before Eric Robinson iced the game with an empty-net tally.
Video: Coach Hynes recaps Preds' 3-0 loss to Blue Jackets
"We had a good effort tonight, but we didn't get rewarded for it," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "You've got to come back in tomorrow again, you talk with your leaders about what the messaging is and what it needs to be, and there has to be honesty. When you have situations where you play well and you don't have an opportunity to win, particularly when you're in the situation we're in, there's got to be honesty. There's other times where we haven't played well, and we've been very honest in those situations. Honesty and truth is the most important thing, but the next part is controlling what you can control, so we've got to come back tomorrow and get better, learn from tonight and make sure we're a better team on Saturday."
Nashville will have another chance to face the Blue Jackets two nights from now, and as the Preds see another loss added to their record, they know they can't allow the frustration of the situation take over.
Instead, as Josi said, the Predators have no choice but to take it upon themselves, as players, to reverse their own fortunes, and that's what they'll try to do once more.
"You can't let that frustration creep in, because when that happens, you have a group of competitive guys who are wound up, always on, and that's when things start turning ugly," Borowiecki said. "If you have that frustration creep in, it kind of pulls you apart as a group, and we can't let that happen. We have to realize that we're all in this together, and the only way to get through this is by all of us collectively pulling the same direction… You've got to find that balance between being intense and competitive and [angry], but still having some positivity. And no one's going to do that for us. It's us in this room, and it kind of sounds a little abstract and all that, but we need to find a way to dig in."
Video: NSH Recap: Predators suffer shutout loss
Predators forwards Michael McCarron and Eeli Tolvanen were both recalled from the taxi squad prior to Thursday's game and played against the Blue Jackets. Forward Yakov Trenin was Nashville's lone scratch.
The Predators face Columbus again on Saturday night before traveling to Detroit for a pair against the Red Wings next week.