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Preds Rally Falls Short on Long Island

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators rally fell short on Thursday as the New York Islanders claimed a 5-2 victory in a meeting of division leaders.

Brian Strait tallied the game’s first goal after receiving a drop pass from Frans Nielson and beat Pekka Rinne under the arm. The defenseman’s marker came exactly one minute into the first period.

The Islanders jumped out to a 2-0, and then 3-0 lead, when John Tavares netted a power-play goal at 18:21 of the opening frame

“Our goal was to come out fast in the first 10 minutes,” Nashville defenseman Roman Josi said. “Our start wasn’t terrible, but they converted on their chances. There’s things we can do better and not give our [opponents] chances like that. They’re going to put it in the net if they have those chances.”

In the final minute of the period, Filip Forsberg joined Mike Fisher and Craig Smith on a modified second line and got Nashville on the board with a rebound tally.

The Predators made it 3-2 with the only goal of the second period on James Neal’s 21st of the season. The forward one-timed a puck past Jaroslav Halak from the left circle to cut the Islanders lead to one.

But just as the Predators were pressing for the equalizer, Nick Leddy made it 4-2 before Josh Bailey gave the Isles a three-goal cushion to finish things off.

“There were some real holes tonight and there were some tough bounces,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ve got to be better defensively. We can’t allow that much.”

It was just the 13th regulation loss of the season for Nashville and their third against a club from the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders claimed the second spot in the NHL with the victory, trailing only the Predators and their 84 points, after Thursday’s three-goal win.

Win Streak Over, Preds Move on:

Falling 5-2 to the Islanders ended the Preds longest win streak of the season, stopping the team’s run at six in a row. Nashville’s first regulation loss in over two weeks, the Predators were quick to mention they were ready to start a new winning stretch on Saturday.

The club has yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation time this season.

“We’ve been great rebounding after losses the whole season,” Nystrom said. “We won six in a row, that’s a great run. You can’t win every single night and that’s a good hockey team that we lost to in a tough building. We’ve just got to refocus and move on, we’ve got a couple big games coming up this weekend. We need to get back on the right foot, and I’m pretty confident that we will.”

The game turned early in the third period when New York struck for two goals in just over a minute and a half to end Nashville’s rally of two consecutive tallies.

“We felt like we were [close],” Josi said. “We were only down 3-2 and we know that we’re never out of a game. But they scored a couple there in the third. It wasn’t our best game, but I have to give them credit, they played a really good game out there.”

“We’ve come back so many times this year, but you can’t do it every single game,” Nystrom said. “We battled back and made it 3-2 there and had an opportunity to maybe make it fall our way in third, but they responded and scored the timely goals and kind of buried us. We can’t be going down every single game and expecting to come back. Tonight, we just couldn’t make it happen.”

The Predators will continue their three-game road trip when they play part two against the Philadelphia Flyers in a matinee matchup. The contest will mark Laviolette’s first return to the city of Brotherly Love since coaching there for parts of five seasons from 2009-13.

Josi Adds More Points:

Predators Captain Shea Weber said earlier this season he thought his defensive partner Roman Josi would put up more points than him in 2014-15. Quite a statement from Weber, who has led the entire team in points the last two seasons and Preds blueliners for the last six-consecutive campaigns.

On Thursday night against the Islanders, Josi added two helpers to run his point total to 42 and even with Weber for first in the category among Preds D-men. An impressive total for a player like Josi who means so much more to Nashville than simply offensive production.

“He’s an amazing player,” Nystrom said of Josi. “He’s so fun to watch and he’s so smooth and makes so many great plays. He also blocks a lot of shots; he’s one of the leaders in that category and a point leader as well. He’s just so solid back there and consistent. When he’s out there, you know not much bad is going to happen and a lot of good is. He’s great.”

In the second period, Josi pinched below the Islanders goal in order to feed Mike Ribeiro up the half-wall, with Ribeiro sending a cross ice feed to Neal for a one-timer goal. Neal’s score gave him four goals in his last five contests and pulled the Predators within a single goal.

“It was an odd rush that first started it and Weber and I joined the rush,” Josi said. “Then he shot it and I got it in the corner, then we went back and forth and [Ribeiro] made a good play to Neal for the [goal].”

End Game:

Defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli, both acquired by Nashville from Toronto on Sunday morning, joined the team during the second intermission of tonight’s contest. The pair had been delayed by immigration and weather related issues over the past three-plus days.  

After Filip Forsberg tied James Neal with his 20th goal of the season for the team lead, Neal once again moved ahead with his 21st marker, beating Halak in the second period.

The Preds are 5-0-0 this season in matinee games; Saturday’s contest at Philadelphia begins at noon CT.

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