The Nashville Predators lost a 2-0 lead and ultimately the game to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Jason Pominville scored the Wild’s third-straight goal with 2:03 left in regulation to put Minnesota ahead 3-2. The visitors later added an empty-net tally for a 4-2 victory, their 12th consecutive road win and third in a row versus Nashville.
“It’s not good enough,” Captain Shea Weber said of the team’s performance. “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and realize what it’s going to take to win, especially going forward here. Maybe it’s a good wake up call so we can realize we’re not playing good enough hockey going into the playoffs.”
Filip Forsberg unleashed a slapper past Darcy Kuemper at 2:58 of the first and provided Nashville with a 1-0 lead. Just past the midway point of the opening frame, Preds defenseman Seth Jones walked the blue line and tallied his eighth goal of the campaign to put Nashville up 2-0 after 20 minutes of play.
But the second period and beyond belonged to the Wild.
“You could kind of see it coming and we couldn't stop it,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Minnesota’s push to tie the game. “They battled harder than we did for the next 35 minutes until the beginning of the third period where we had a lot of opportunities and looks to try and win the hockey game, but we were rolling the dice...It’s frustrating.”
“For 40 minutes, we didn’t play at all,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “We were up 2-0, but I don’t think we deserved to be up 2-0 after the first. The second wasn’t good. We played better in the third. We had a couple of chances, but we just have to find a way to win those games.”
Nashville saw an early lead vanish again on Thursday evening. The Predators have claimed a 1-0 advantage in each of their previous five contests, but have seen every lead disappear during a stretch that’s featured a 0-2-3 record for the club.
Two goals in 31 seconds for Jason Zucker and Marco Scandella in the middle frame erased the Wild’s 2-0 deficit.
“Hopefully there’s a change of attitude; we’ve got to have some more urgency with what we’re doing,” Laviolette said. “We can’t lose battles, we can’t lose assignments, we have to have more pop to what we do on the ice. We can’t rely on a two-goal lead in the first [11 minutes] and we can’t hope to pull something out in the third period. It’s not good enough.”
Unable to claim two points against the Wild, the Predators were aided by a Chicago Blackhawks regulation loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Preds, who clinched a playoff berth on March 28, now know they will begin the postseason on home ice following Thursday’s results in the NHL.
Still one of the League’s best teams in their own barn, Filip Forsberg said having home ice advantage for a first round series could be greatly beneficial to Nashville.
“That could be huge,” Forsberg said. “That was our goal coming into this game, we didn’t get it done our way, but it still happened anyway. That could be a big factor going into the playoffs with our record here.”
The Predators will play game No. 82, their final contest of the regular season, on Saturday against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.
“I think we’ve seen how well we can play,” Weber said. “We’ve played against some top teams in the League and we’ve played well. I don’t know what it is, but we just have to figure that out in the next couple of days before we play Dallas, and going forward.”
Cody Franson played in his 400th NHL game on Thursday night versus the Wild.
Mike Fisher missed the contest with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Eric Nystrom did not play and remains out with a lower-body injury as well.
By scoring his 25th goal of the season, Filip Forsberg moved into first in the Predators team lead in points with 62. Mike Ribeiro is a point back of the rookie with 61 on the campaign.
Up by two points and with two more ROW (Regulation and Overtime Wins) than the Blackhawks, the Preds will finish second in the Central Division. That seeding ensures Game One and Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals will be played at Bridgestone Arena when the postseason gets underway next week (as will Games Five and Seven, if necessary).
The final missing detail from the Predators first postseason appearance in three years is who Nashville will face in the first round. If the Blackhawks claim one or more points on Saturday, they will play the Predators in the Quarterfinals. If the Wild win in any fashion (versus the Blues), and the Hawks lose in regulation (versus the Avalanche), Nashville and Minnesota will square off in both teams’ opening series.
Before the contest, Predators Head Equipment Manager Pete Rogers was honored with a video tribute and ceremony for working his 2,000th game in professional hockey, which will come Saturday at Dallas.