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Preds' rally comes up short in Tampa

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

After falling behind 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lighting Saturday night, the Nashville Predators scored twice in the final 8:52 of regulation but were unable to tie the score before the final buzzer in a 4-3 loss at the St. Pete Times Forum. Kimmo Timonen, Jeremy Stevenson and Adam Hall netted the goals for the Predators, who have dropped two in a row and move to 18-6-3 on the season.

The game was Nashville's fourth straight against an Eastern Conference opponent. On Thursday, Nashville lost 5-1 to the visiting New York Rangers, falling behind 5-0 after failing to score on early power-play opportunities. The same scenario presented itself in the first period Saturday night, but after two failed power plays the Predators were able to connect on the man advantage to open the scoring and went on to display much more resilience against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Goaltender Chris Mason, playing in his first game since starter Tomas Vokoun was sidelined with a knee strain this week, came up big in the opening 20 minutes to keep the game scoreless through the first intermission. At 11:55, he stopped Martin Cibak on a breakaway with a sliding leg pad save as the forward tried to shovel the puck through the five-hole. Two and a half minutes later, Mason made a left shoulder save on a shot that Martin St. Louis had targeted for the top right corner, and at 18:18 he stopped a one-timer and smothered the rebound away from Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier, who was alone on the doorstep. The Lightning outshot Nashville 10-3 in the first period.

With St. Louis in the penalty box for interference, the Predators went on their third power play early in the second period. With time winding down on their manpower advantage, Scott Hartnell passed the puck out from behind the goal line to Kris Beech, playing in his first game as a Predator. Beech, near the right face-off dot in Tampa's zone, fired a shot that Lightning goaltender John Grahame knocked down and tried to shuffleboard out of danger. Instead the puck went off a few sticks in front and found its way to open ice, where Timonen skated into a shot that arrived on net as Hartnell lept across Grahame's field of vision. Timonen's chance made it through the screen and Grahame to put Nashville up 1-0 at 5:23.

Just over four minutes later, Tampa Bay tied the game at 1-1 on their third power play of the night. Lecavalier carried the puck into Nashville's zone along the right wall, stopped and passed back to defenseman Dan Boyle at the right point. Boyle used his glove to settle the puck before sending it down low to St. Louis, who made a one-touch pass across the slot to Dave Andreychuk. The 42-year-old Andreychuk stuffed the puck inside the left post just beyond the reach of Mason's goal stick.

Minutes later Nashville's Paul Kariya hit the post on a chance from the right face-off circle, then Tampa Bay scored at the other end to take the lead at 17:30. Two Predators got tangled up in the neutral zone allowing the Lightning to counter on a two-on-one break. Fredrik Modin delivered the puck from the left side to St. Louis in the right face-off circle for a one-timer that beat Mason.

The Predators had a prime opportunity to tie the match when Grahame played the puck in one of the new no-play zones behind the goal line and was whistled for a penalty while Paul Ranger already sat in the Lightning's box. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky hit the post with a blast during the five-on-three power play that closed out the second period and started the third, but Nashville was unable to come any closer before Tampa's Darryl Sydor skated down the left side and fired a shot parallel to the goal line that squeezed between Mason and the left post. That goal, at 5:15 of the third, and Lecavalier's rebound tally off of an Andreychuk tip on the power play four minutes later built a 4-1 lead for the Lightning. Nashville's third-ranked penalty killers kept the game within reach by stumping Tampa on a 48-second five-on-three power play earlier in the period.

The Predators began to rally after good pressure from the makeshift line of Beech, Stevenson and Darcy Hordichuk drew a delayed penalty and defensemen Ryan Suter and Zidlicky set up Stevenson for a slapshot goal from the top of the right face-off circle. A couple of ill-timed Nashville penalties slowed the momentum, but Martin Erat drew a penalty on Boyle with 27 seconds left in regulation and head coach Barry Trotz called a time-out. Boyle's penalty negated an earlier offensive-zone charging call against Hartnell to put the teams at four players aside. Mason stayed on the Predators bench after the time-out in favor of an extra attacker that gave his side a five-to-four advantage in the final half-minute of play. Nashville capitalized on the opportunity with just under 12 seconds left, as Zidlicky found Kariya in the right face-off circle, Kariya whipped a low shot on net and Hall deflected it past Grahame to cut the margin to one. But the rally came too late for Nashville as time expired before another chance could be generated.

Mason, who was dealt his first regulation loss of the season to move to 3-1-1, stopped 25 of 29 Tampa Bay shots. Nashville, meanwhile, registered only 16 shots against a frustrating Lightning team that continually blocked shots and passes in its own zone and feasted on Predators turnovers, creating quality chances on the counterattack.

Next, Nashville will remain in the state of Florida but move farther south to face the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The game, which starts at 6 p.m. CT, will be televised in the Nashville area on FSN South and broadcast on 104.5 FM The Zone.

Notes: With an assist on Adam Hall's late goal, Marek Zidlicky pushes his assist streak to three games. He has accumulated 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) in his last 13 games... Paul Kariya's assist on Hall's goal gives him five points (1g, 4a) in his last four games. Kariya leads the Predators in points with 25 (9g, 16a)... Kris Beech, skating in his 100th NHL game, posted one assist--his first point as a Predator--and was +1 while winning 53 percent of his face-offs... Timonen's power-play goal puts him in the lead among Predators in power-play points with 15 (3g, 12a)... Nashville's 16 shots Saturday was the team's lowest total this season, and the fewest since Jan 25, 2004, when they posted 16 against the Canucks in Vancouver... Saturday's game marked the first time this season that the Predators lost a game in which they scored three or more goals... Nashville was strong in the face-off circle vs. Tampa Bay, winning 58 percent of the draws... Attendance at the St. Pete Times Forum was 19,905.

Game Stats:
Official Scoresheet
Official Super Stats
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