Mikael Granlund scored in the first period, and Viktor Arvidsson tallied late, but it wasn't enough, as the Nashville Predators returned from the bye week with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The result left the Preds frustrated with their efforts in the second period in particular, especially considering a quality start and a late push to try for the tie.
"We just got away from the identity that we want to play with [in the second period]," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "When you narrow the game down it really comes down to that second period, and we've got to dissect that. We've got to talk to the guys about it, and see why we came out and played the way we did in the first period, and then, [have an understanding of] where we went in the second period. We've got to do a better job understanding that you're not always going to have the lead, and you've got to have pushback in games. [We need] a little bit more mental fortitude and consistency in what we're doing and consistency throughout our lineup."
William Nylander gave the visitors a 1-0 lead early in the contest, but less than a minute later, Mikael Granlund answered for the Predators with his ninth of the season, as he went short side on Frederik Andersen.
Video: TOR@NSH: Granlund fires puck home in transition
Zach Hyman put Toronto up by one again before the opening period was out, and the Maple Leafs added two more in the second stanza that left the Predators searching for answers.
"The first [period] was good, and then our second [period], we don't play well, they score one or two and it just kind of keeps going from there," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "We've got to find a way to get out of it after they score a goal. That next shift has got to be going our way. There's going to be times when they have the puck, that momentum - that's normal… You've got to find a way to get out of it… As a team, we've got to do a way better job of coming back and changing momentum to our way."
Video: TOR@NSH: Arvidsson collects Ekholm rebound for goal
Arvidsson slid the puck into the net with roughly seven minutes to play in regulation to bring the Predators back within two, but even with a late push, Nashville was unable to find the twine again before the Maple Leafs iced it with an empty-netter.
"We have to win games, and we need to play way better," Granlund said. "We're going to play this kind of game where we play 20 good minutes, but that's not going to be enough. We have to do it better, the way we play. That has to change. We're not going to win hockey games otherwise."
Nashville will head back on the road for a back-to-back set, and it starts Wednesday in Washington (at 6:30 p.m. CT), a formidable foe.
One game into the final 10 weeks of the regular season, the challenge still remains for the Predators to find a way to climb back into a playoff spot. But the group can't look at the entire road map. The next game comes again the Capitals, and the Preds need to find a way to correct the issues that arose Monday night.
"There's different things that present teams positively and negatively every year; and right now, our biggest task from the coaches to the players is finding a way where we can put multiple games together, put full games together," Hynes said. "It's on everybody - the coaches and the players, and I think that's what our challenge is. The good thing is we know what the challenge is. It's not like you're at a dartboard. I think we know exactly what we have to take care of, and that's part of what our challenge is as a group. That's what we have to overcome."
Video: NSH Recap: Arvidsson, Predators fall to Maple Leafs
Forward Colton Sissons skated with the team on Sunday and Monday morning, but he remains on Injured Reserve with a lower-body injury.
The Predators are headed to the Nation's Capital to start a back-to-back set. Nashville will face the Caps on Wednesday (at 6:30 p.m.) before travelling to New Jersey to meet the Devils on Thursday (at 6:30 p.m.).