“I’m pretty sick and tired of this losing thing.”
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne summed up the feeling throughout the locker room, following his team’s 3-1 loss to Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. The defeat was Nashville’s third-straight at Bridgestone Arena and sixth overall.
After previously not going more than one game without earning at least a point, the Predators have now seen their winless stretch hit half a dozen.
“It’s very frustrating,” Predators blueliner Ryan Ellis said. “It took us a while to lose just two in a row, and now we’re six in the hole."
On Saturday, the Jets connected for the game’s first tally toward the end of the first period. Michael Frolik’s one-timer squeezed past Rinne and marked the 11th-consecutive time an opponent has scored first on the Preds.
Nashville’s inability to tally a game’s first goal has gone the way of their losing streak: void of any egregious errors or mishaps, but still decidedly not in their favor. Similar to Thursday’s loss to the Islanders, the Predators were carrying the pace of play for stretches during the opening 20 minutes, but found themselves behind once again.
“It’s not the plan,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of trailing early. “I don’t think last game we came out and were passive - I think the same thing tonight - it just wasn’t as easy...The guys came out with the right intentions. They just weren’t able to get that first goal, which is something we need to conquer and get done.”
“It’s not good enough,” Ellis said. “You can improve all you want, but if you don’t get that first goal, you’re really setting yourself behind. I thought we played a pretty good game, just like [on Thursday], but the bounces just didn’t go our way and we didn’t win.”
Nashville came back to tie the contest at 1-1, but also similar to Thursday’s loss, they weren’t able to stay even for long.
Ellis’ point shot deflected off a body in front to tie the contest, but Winnipeg was back in front less than a minute later.
“It’s a tough break on their second goal,” Nashville D-man Mattias Ekholm said. “We had just scored one and they came back and got one, that kind of set us back a little bit."
Jets winger Blake Wheeler put Winnipeg ahead 2-1 off a rebound chance in the low slot. Tyler Myers threw the puck on net from the halfwall and Wheeler converted after Rinne kicked out the biscuit to his stick.
The remaining 29 minutes then ticked away as the Jets stingy defense prevented the Predators from rallying again. Drew Stafford added an empty-net goal with 50 seconds left in regulation.
So the Predators were again left frustrated, but just as quickly as they voiced their irritation, Ellis, Rinne, Ekholm and others, explained the club’s effort level is at the right place for victories to start happening.
“I think you have to focus on the positives,” Ellis said. “We’re playing hard, it’s not like we’re not trying. We’re going out and we’re making a difference throughout close games, it’s just not coming out on our side.”
“We’re really working, we’ve just got to keep our eyes off the scoreboard right now," Ekholm explained. "We’re playing good, we’ve just got to get that extra bounce and work really hard to get it.
“Get a shot from the point, get a tip or a greasy goal, just to get something going for us. Give us some energy at the right times...It’s the small details in hockey and it’s never going to be easy for us, we’ve just got to bare down a little bit.”
And so they’ll do just that. The Predators will have the next opportunity to practice what they’re preaching and end their slump on the road against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. Nashville is 2-0-0 against the Coyotes and will be looking for a season sweep of the Western Conference’s 14th-placed team.
Saturday’s meeting between the Preds and Jets was their fifth and final of the regular season. Winnipeg claimed their second win in five tries to end the season series with a 2-3-0 record against Nashville. The Jets and Predators are currently on pace to meet in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Nashville leading the Central and Winnipeg owning the West’s second Wild Card spot.
Ryan Ellis’ second period goal was his sixth of the season and first since missing a total of 24 games with a lower-body injury. Six goals ties a career high for the 24-year-old.
Late in the second period, Preds blueliner Cody Franson was checked by Jets Captain Andrew Ladd and stayed down on the ice before being helped to the bench by Paul Gaustad. Franson missed the remainder of the frame, but returned in time for the start of the third period.
The Predators begin a four-game road trip on Monday night in Arizona before departing for San Jose. They’ll face the Sharks on Thursday and then finish things out next weekend in Los Angeles on Saturday night and Anaheim on Sunday. Nashville returns home on St. Patrick’s Day to host Minnesota.