Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars was a tough one to accept for the Nashville Predators.
The club rallied from two goals down in the final 10 minutes of regulation to force extra time, but Cody Eakin’s penalty shot tally at 4:04 of OT caused Nashville to settle for a single point earned in the standings.
A few of the Preds referenced a lapse in the team’s attack during the second period and the beginning of the third as the main issue on Saturday evening. Despite putting 36 shots on the Stars net and receiving a combined five-point effort from their first line, moments where Nashville took their foot of the gas allowed Dallas to claw back into the contest.
The Stars scored three consecutive goals during a 24-minute span that began early in the second period.
“We had a good first period, but in the second we kind of laid down,” Preds center Mike Ribeiro said. “A few mistakes and turnovers can cost you against a team like that. They scored on their power play and maybe if we’d scored on ours, it would have been 2-0 instead of 1-1. I think we fed them offensively with some turnovers.”
“This team has a lot of fight and we work to come back in games, but that being said we want to be in the lead in our building,” Nashville winger James Neal said. “We’ve got to play a strong 60 minutes. We kind of let up in the second period and got behind. Then we’re playing catch up.”
Goals from Travis Moen, Tyler Seguin and Colton Sceviour erased an early 1-0 Preds lead. Filip Forsberg’s 24th of the campaign gave Nashville the first goal of a game for the seventh-straight contest.
Down two scores midway through the third period, Forsberg found Ryan Ellis in the low slot where the blueliner beat Jhonas Enroth five-hole. In the final two minutes of the contest, and with Pekka Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, Neal struck to tie the score 3-3.
“We put ourselves behind the eight ball in the third and we showed that we have the character in this room to come back,” Ellis said. “It’s good to know that when we’re down, we need something to happen and we can do that. A point is a point at this time of the season. Getting anything is good.”
The Predators late-game comeback was not enough, however, as Eakin converted on his first career penalty shot. The Stars fought off postseason elimination with their first victory in four tries versus the Preds.
“There were a lot of good, positive things to take from tonight, but at the end of the night, we have to win the game,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think we could have played a cleaner game. There are things that we could've done to keep the game a little cleaner and manage the puck a little bit better, but you’ve got to win a hockey game. We didn't do that.”
With his first period goal, Filip Forsberg became just the 12th rookie since 2005-06 to score 60 or more points in their inaugural season. Forsberg joins the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane, among others.
Mike Ribeiro’s no-look pass to Neal to even the contest at three was the veteran’s 500th assist in the NHL. The helper also pulled Ribeiro back into a tie with Forsberg for the team lead in scoring (61 points).
James Neal’s goal at 18:05 of the third was his 23rd marker of the season and his first since returning from an upper-body injury that kept him out of nine games.
Defenseman Victor Bartley filled in at forward on Saturday night after Mike Santorelli was a late scratch due to an illness.
The one point gained by Nashville put them alone in first in the Central Division, breaking a tie between the Predators and St. Louis Blues. With 79 games played, Nashville has 104 points while St. Louis and Chicago sit at 103 and 102 points, respectively - while playing 78 contests in 2014-15. The Blues and Blackhawks will meet Sunday at the United Center at 6:30 p.m. (CT).
The Preds have just three games remaining in the regular season, beginning Tuesday at Colorado. They then return to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday to host Minnesota in the final home contest of the campaign, before finishing off against the Stars next Saturday in Dallas.