The Atlanta Thrashers used a five-goal second period and a strong performance by former Predators goaltender Mike Dunham to defeat Nashville 5-2 in Thursday night's preseason game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The loss drops the Predators' exhibition record to 3-2.
"The second period killed us," head coach Barry Trotz said. "Structurally we didn't play intelligent and that bothered me. A good team like Atlanta, they'll tear you apart.... It was the face-offs and the traffic in front of Tomas that we created ourselves."
After a scoreless first period in which each team was whistled for five minor penalties, the goals came in a flurry during the second. Atlanta lit the lamp twice once from center Jim Slater and once from left wing Vyacheslav Kozlovin a 1:58 span to put the Predators down 2-0 with less than four minutes gone. Nashville's Scott Walker answered just 1:13 later with a power play goal set up by Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat.
Atlanta stole the momentum back and ultimately put the game out of reach a couple of minutes later, netting three goals in a 1:59 span. Power play goals by Greg de Vries and Andy Sutton sandwiched an even-strength tally by Niclas Havelid, and the Thrashers took a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.
Dunham kept Nashville off the scoreboard early in the third, making key stops during two Predators' 5-on-3 power plays. The Predators, who scored on one of 11 power play opportunities for the night, were unable to capitalize on six man advantages in the third period.
"We weren't clicking," said Trotz of his team's power play. "I thought Mike [Dunham] played really well, especially when we had some good chances."
"It's always a little nervous playing in this building because there were a lot of great times, a lot of great memories," Dunham said. "Once that puck is dropped it all starts to fade away and you focus on the game."
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky finally pierced Dunham at even strength with two minutes remaining in the game, taking a rebound generated by a David Legwand shot and putting it past the Atlanta goaltender to close the margin to 5-2.
Dunham allowed two goals on a total of 34 Nashville shots. His impressive play carried over into the shootout exhibition that followed the game. He stopped both Paul Kariya and Marek Zidlicky on one-on-one opportunities while Atlanta converted two of three chances to win the shootout 2-0. The exhibition had no bearing on the game's outcome, but was part of the National Hockey League's introduction of the new tie-breaking feature to preseason audiences. Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun turned away 18 of the 23 shots he faced during regulation.
Both teams will meet again Friday night in Atlanta for the second half of a home-and-home series. That game, which starts at 6 p.m. CDT, will be broadcast in Nashville on 104.5 The Zone. Pre-game coverage begins at 5 p.m.