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Preds Beaten by Bolts in Final Preseason Tilt

Craig Smith Scores Twice as Nashville Falls in Preseason Finale

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / NashvillePredators.com

Craig Smith scored twice for Nashville, but a three-goal third period for the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted them over the Predators by a 5-3 score.

The final preseason game for both clubs, the roster read much as it will on Opening Night for the Bolts, while the Preds, however, inserted several players likely to open the season in Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, after multiple veteran players needed more time to nurse some bumps and bruises.

Still, Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette wasn't about to offer up excuses as his team now looks ahead to the start of their 2016-17 season on Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I don't think we played very well tonight, but we left a lot of our guys at home, too," Laviolette said. "It's difficult to assess it, if I'm being honest. I thought we did OK at parts of the game tonight, and then parts we gave up way too much. We left our goaltender too much responsibility, we should have been better in front of him. Again, I think evaluating personnel, some of the defensemen decisions we have to make, some of the line decisions we have to make, we'll continue to [work] on that."

Smith's first score of the evening gave the Predators a lead at 7:29 of the second. After Nikita Nesterov tied the contest a few minutes later, Smith tallied again, this time due to P.K. Subban transitioning the puck from the defensive to the offensive zone and finding the forward open on the wing.

Nashville fell short of holding the lead to the end of the middle frame when Brayden Point tallied his third of the preseason and started a run of four consecutive Tampa Bay goals - three of which would open the third period.

"It was coming after the first 10 minutes of the game or so," Laviolette said of the Lightning's offensive onslaught. "Their big guys woke up and started to attack more, generate more. We turned the puck over a little too much, they capitalized on the power play and got a few fortuitous bounces too."

Colin Wilson notched his initial goal of the preseason on a backhand to pull the visitors within two, but Andrei Vasilevskiy, who entered the game at the start of the final frame, kept the Bolts in front to preserve the win.

Nashville's exhibition slate now over, their coach and players look forward to the unique opportunity to prepare for five days leading into a home-and-home series with their largest rival.

"Get mentally ready for not only the 82 games, but also we have the Blackhawks on our mind right now," Wilson said. "We want those two points the first night and then two more the next time against them. It's going to be a great way to start the season.

"We know what we have to do. As much as people want to hype the team up, we understand we're a hard-working team, and that's what got us to where we were last year. We were playing hard and going in on the forecheck. It's nice to have the talent, but you certainly can't ride on that. We'll be ready."

Notes:

Both Mike Liambas and Cody Bass dropped the gloves for Nashville, taking on Cedric Paquette and Braydon Coburn, respectively.

Mike Ribeiro centered a first line that included Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok with Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, James Neal, Mike Fisher and others sitting out the contest.

Roman Josi logged his first game alongside defensive partner P.K. Subban. Said Josi:

"It's definitely about getting used to P.K., too. It was nice to get a game together, we've had some practices, but it's not the same as game action. We definitely want to gain chemistry and we'll work on that in practices and games."

Nashville is now scheduled to have Sunday and Monday off, with the team resuming practice at 11 a.m. (CT) on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.

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