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Preds surrender momentum in 4-3 loss

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

After a strong start that included two goals in the first 9:05 of play, the Nashville Predators yielded the momentum with five straight penalties and gave up the final two goals of the game in a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in a sold-out General Motors Place Wednesday night. Yanic Perreault's even-strength tally midway through the game broke a 2-2 tie to give Nashville the lead, but Vancouver turned up the pressure in the final period-and-a-half to snap the Predators' six-game winning streak. Nashville's record moves to 24-8-3 overall.

The Predators' power play, which has been red hot in recent games, scored again Wednesday to extend the number of consecutive contests with at least one power-play goal to nine. Nashville's untimely trips to the penalty box, however, were more of a determining factor in the game's outcome. Although Vancouver converted on only one of seven chances with a man advantage, the power plays allowed the Canucks to get into a rhythm in the second period that sparked their comeback. Meanwhile, goaltender Alex Auld turned away all of the Predators' 18 shots in the final period to end a five-game losing skid for his club.

Martin Erat had two assists for the Preds, who were playing the second half of back-to-back games after defeating the Calgary Flames 4-3 Tuesday night. Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk, who had two assists in a strong game against the Flames, picked right back up at the start of Wednesday's match. He put Nashville on the board just 38 seconds into the first period, beating Auld with a shot from the left wing for his third tally of the season. The 6'1" forward who leads the Predators in penalty minutes started the play in his own zone by retrieving a puck cleared down ice by Vancouver, curling behind his net and passing the vulcanized rubber disc up the left boards to linemate Jerred Smithson. The puck pinballed among sticks and skates until Hordichuk swooped in and picked it up again, this time carrying it the length of the ice before winding for a shot that glanced off a defenseman's stick before entering the Canucks' net high to the far side.

Two consecutive power plays followed for Nashville, and on the second, defenseman Marek Zidlicky redirected a feed from fellow blueliner Dan Hamhuis to extend the Predators' lead to 2-0 at 9:05. Zidlicky's backhand stab rang the left post before caroming in off of the back of Auld's outstretched left leg. Seconds later, Predators goaltender Chris Mason preserved the margin by stoning Markus Naslund on a point-blank chance and making a big pad save on hard shot from defenseman Ed Jovanovski.

Vancouver cut into the lead 1:20 into the second period when the club's top two scorers, Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, worked in concert to score off an up-ice rush. Bertuzzi brought the puck up the right wing and dropped it inside the Predators' blue line for a trailing Naslund, who cut to the center and fired a shot past Mason. The Canucks, who picked up the hitting in the middle period, noticeably ramped up the offensive pressure during successive penalties to Steve Sullivan and Danny Markov. They capitalized at 7:24, when Naslund and Bertuzzi connected once again to set up a backdoor redirection goal by Jovanovski that knotted the game at 2-2.

The Predators battled back and recaptured the lead less than three minutes later on Perreault's goal, which was made possible by a superb rush up the right-hand boards by Markov. Starting from inside his own zone, Markov avoided a hip check and dumped the puck to the right corner for Erat, who curled out to the left side of the net and backhanded a pass to an unmarked Perreault for a one-timer as he closed in on right wing.

Nashville had no chance to build on the momentum though, as two consecutive penalties to Predators forward Jordin Tootoo allowed Vancouver to generate a number of quality chances and dictate the rhythm of the game. As Tootoo's second penalty--a diving call--expired, Mattias Ohlund teed off on a gentle pass from Anson Carter to tie the game at 3-3 with 17:32 gone in the second period.

The Predators displayed drive and increased urgency to start of the third. Perreault manufactured great scoring chances on two separate plays in the first 1:20. But again, the wind was taken out of Nashville's sails when Hordichuk was sent to the box for tripping at 2:01. The Preds killed that penalty and the line of Greg Johnson, Scott Hartnell and Adam Hall responded with two strongs shifts, yet it was the Canucks who would break the deadlock. With a delayed penalty to Nashville pending, Jovanovski put a wrist shot toward the net. It deflected in front and ended up on the stick of Richard Park, alone at the left side of the net and with enough room between Mason and the left post to give Vancouver a 4-3 lead at 8:41.

Two late power plays for the Predators allowed them to come close to tying the game in the final minutes, but Auld stood tall--whether battling through a mad scramble in front of his crease or turning away prime chances by Perreault and Hall. Auld stopped 32 of 35 shots on the night to earn the win, while Mason allowed four goals on 32 Canucks shots in his second regulation loss of the season. Both clubs were one for seven on the power play, and although each team committed an equal number of penalties, Nashville's violations occurred at very inopportune times and proved to be more costly.

Friday night Nashville will close out its five-game road trip with a stop in Edmonton for the third of four meetings with the Oilers. The Predators, who are 3-1 in the trip's first four games, will then return home for a Jan. 1 game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Less than 2,500 tickets remain for that 7 p.m. contest. To order, you can call (615) 770-PUCK, purchase online or visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center box office or any Ticketmaster outlet.

Notes: Wednesday's 4-3 decision was just the eighth regulation loss of the season for the Predators. Only the Ottawa Senators have fewer, with six... With another power-play goal Wednesday, Nashville has scored at least one goal on the man advantage in 20 of its last 21 games... Forward Darcy Hordichuk scored his third goal of the season Wednesday against Vancouver to match his career-high for goals in a season. He also posted a +1 rating in the game to tie for the team lead in plus/minus rating at +8. He has only posted a minus rating in one game this season... Jerred Smithson collected an assist on Hordichuk's goal and has registered a point in five of his last seven games... Defenseman Marek Zidlicky tallied his seventh power-play goal Wednesday and was named the game's 3rd Star. He has points in three straight games and five of his last six... Defenseman Dan Hamhuis assisted on Zidlicky's goal and now has assists in two straight games and five of his last six... Forward Martin Erat registered his third multi-point game of the season with his two assists against Vancouver... Yanic Perreault scored a goal to give him tallies in three of his last four games and six of his last seven... Defenseman Danny Markov assisted on Perreault's goal for his first point in six games... Defenseman Mark Eaton registered six blocked shots to add to his team-leading 71 blocks. He is now ranked in the top 10 in the league in that category... Nashville suffered its first loss when tied after two periods and drops to 14-4 in games decided by one goal... Goaltender Chris Mason is now 4-2-1 on the season... Nashville edged Vancouver in shots by a 35-32 margin, and the Predators are 10-3-0 when outshooting their opponent... The Predators won the face-off battle, 54 percent to 46 percent... Jamie Allison and Kris Beech were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at General Motors Place was 18,630.

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