Ryan Johansen recorded a goal and an assist in his first game as a member of the Nashville Predators, but it wasn’t enough, as the Preds fell 5-3 to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Friday night.
Nashville got into penalty trouble, going to the box a total of six times and allowing two power-play goals to the Avs on the night.
“We need to play a clean game; we’re in a position right now where we’re vulnerable in the standings and we have to give ourselves every opportunity to win hockey games,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We talked about it before the game. We needed to stay out of the box completely, and we went there six times and made too many mistakes 5-on-5.”
Johansen tallied just 2:35 into the game on the power play, retrieving the puck on the left side and snapping a shot past Semyon Varlamov for his seventh of the season and a 1-0 Nashville lead. Jarome Iginla evened the score when he deposited his 601st career goal on the power play at the 14:50 mark, and Cody McLeod gave Colorado a 2-1 lead at 17:45 as the clubs headed into the intermission.
Much like the game’s opening frame, Nashville struck early in the second when Ryan Ellis wristed a laser of a shot from the left face-off dot to the top corner of the cage to make it 2-2. Gabriel Landeskog gave Colorado a 3-2 lead at 7:40, but Filip Forsberg pulled the Preds even before the period was out, wristing a shot from the left circle to tie the contest once more. Johansen picked up a secondary assist on the play, giving him two points through two periods.
Rinne committed larceny on Mikhail Grigorenko in the early portions of the third period, with a full extension of his right leg to rob the Avs forward in tight, followed by a sprawling Eric Nystrom to deny Iginla on the rebound attempt. But Tyson Barrie then gave Colorado a lead once more, converting on the power play midway through the third on what proved to be the game winner, before the Avs added an empty netter with two seconds left.
Johansen’s play was a bright spot on the night, with the new forward making his mark early.
“It’s definitely nice to see one go in early like that,” Johansen said. “Hopefully I can use that as some confidence and move forward in shooting the puck and stuff. It’s too bad we couldn’t find a way to win this one; it would’ve been a lot cooler.”
Acquired Wednesday from Columbus, Johansen grew more comfortable as the game went along, finishing with two points and two shots in 17:46 of ice time. Johansen saw time between Colin Wilson and James Neal to begin the game, before Forsberg took Wilson’s place in the second period.
“I’ll have to watch some video and look at a few mistakes I made systemically, but it’s a lot easier to play out there when you have guys like Neal and Wilson and Forsberg,” Johansen said. “I had fun tonight even though we didn’t come out on top. We’ll learn from it and just keep building.”
The Preds will get another chance Saturday night in Arizona as they face the Coyotes, an opportunity they hope to take advantage of with the Central Division standings continuing to tighten.
“We’re very aware of the standings and coach emphasized it a lot before the game tonight and how tight that race is,” Johansen said. “We have a segment that we’ve put together and we want to make sure we reach our goal with that. Not the start we wanted, but it's hockey… the good thing is we’re back to work tomorrow and we can get on the ice and try to get a win.”
With his second-period goal, Ryan Ellis now has tallied a point in six of his last seven games against Colorado.
Anthony Bitetto appeared in his second game of the season for the Preds, logging 12:02 of ice time paired alongside Barret Jackman.
The Preds have a quick turnaround, as they’ll face the Arizona Coyotes from Gila River Arena on Saturday night in game two of their current four-game trip, before heading to Chicago and Winnipeg next week.