James van Riemsdyk tallied a hat trick as the Nashville Predators saw their three-game win streak come to an end at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs - by a 6-2 final - on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
Nashville was unable to fully close the gap after the Maple Leafs claimed a two-goal advantage in the first period. Scores from James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson brought the Preds to within a single goal on two separate occasions, but the home team kept their foot on the gas, ultimately prevailing and putting the Predators overall record at 6-6-3.
"I thought our guys had lots of chances to score goals and play the game," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "They had a couple of goals that were seeing-eye goals, where they just turned and fired it and worked its way through legs and bodies and found the back of the net. We took as many attempts, had as many quality chances and it didn't find its way through… they capitalized on their opportunities."
Laviolette wanted the Predators to carry momentum from a three-game winning streak onto the road as they began a three-game trip. Nashville had scored the first goal in four of the six contests during their six-game point streak, but found themselves down 2-0 in the first to the Leafs on Thursday.
"We made some good plays, we had some good chances, we had two or three breakaways and some zone time, but just the amount of pucks they threw at our net, they were getting some bounces there and making some good plays," Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "For the most part, our game was all right, but you have to score to win and they did just that."
Video: NSH@TOR: Neal, Johansen combine for great goal
James Neal scored for the fifth consecutive game on Tuesday night. The forward equaled his career high for goal-streak length and became the first player during the 2016-17 season to record such a streak.
On the play, Ryan Johansen held off a Leafs defender reaching over his back and fed the puck into the crease, where Neal tapped the puck into the cage. With six goals in five contests and 10 points (7g-3a) in the previous eight games, Neal is simply, in a major groove for the Preds.
"He's playing well right now, and he's finding the back of the net," forward Austin Watson said of Neal. "We need that out of him. He's a big part of our team, not just from a leadership standpoint, but from offensive production. He's a guy we need going for us, and he's taking care of business."
Big Things Coming for Arvidsson:
Video: NSH@TOR: Arvidsson gets one by Andersen on break
If winger Viktor Arvidsson continues to score at even a fraction of his current pace, he'll set new career highs in goals, assists and points. Fifteen games into the 2016-17 season, the 23-year-old Swede has five goals and five assists. Last season, Arvidsson recorded his current-best offensive totals with eight goals and eight assists through 59 games.
"Our slogan this year is kind of that dog on a bone mentality, and to me, it should be his face on that picture," center Ryan Johansen said of Arvidsson. "Every night right now, he's been bringing it, his speed and his work ethic… I really love the way he's been playing and he deserves a lot of credit."
Against the Leafs, Arvidsson followed up a two-assist game on Saturday with a breakaway tally on Frederik Andersen. Colin Wilson's feed went blue line to blue line where Arvidsson took the feed in alone on Andersen before firing a shot low to the glove side.
"He plays the same way every game - he's tenacious, relentless in the pursuit of trying to come up with the puck and generate offense," Laviolette said of Arvidsson.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne did not dress on Tuesday in Toronto and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Marek Mazanec made his second start of the season, making 26 saves.
"We weren't good enough in front of him," Ellis said of Mazanec. "He made some big saves at some key times to keep us in it, but we weren't good enough in front of him, and their team was better."
The Predators continue their three-game road trip on Thursday in Ottawa against the Senators before finishing on Saturday in St. Louis.