The potential was there to take third place in the Central Division and clinch a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but instead Nashville will settle for scoreboard watching after a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon at Scottrade Center.
Nashville's 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday set up a pivotal contest in St. Louis on Sunday with the Preds and Blues both at 91 points. The Predators outshot the Blues by a 36-25 count and had plenty of chances on the day, but it was the home team that cashed in.
"I thought we played hard," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "The chances were in our favor, shots in our favor, made a couple mistakes… couple of mistakes or tough bounces and the game doesn't go our way. There's a lot of numbers that do go our way tonight, just not the scoreboard. I thought our guys played hard in the back-to-back situation."
After killing a Preds' 5-on-3 power-play opportunity that lasted 1:04, Vladimir Tarasenko went upstairs on Juuse Saros at 5:22 for a 1-0 lead.
The Preds took advantage of a second opportunity up two men later in the period, when Ryan Johansen buried a shot off a scramble in front of the net to even the contest. Thanks to several chances on the power play in the opening 20 minutes, Nashville left the first with a 13-7 advantage in shots and a tie contest.
Video: NSH@STL: Johansen buries a juicy rebound for a PPG
What had traditionally been the Predators' period to dominate - the second - saw momentum swing back to the Blues with Alex Steen netting his 15th less than a minute into the period. David Perron collected his second point of the night six minutes later by spinning off the half wall and firing a shot farside on the Preds' net.
Joel Edmundson added a fourth goal for the Blues in the third period and the Predators were unable to solve Allen for the rest of the afternoon before the horn sounded.
"We would've loved to get the win here," Captain Mike Fisher said. "I wish we would've come out on the right end of it, but I thought we competed pretty hard. There were parts of that game I thought we played really well, but it wasn't quite good enough. They got some great bounces and buried when they could and that was the difference."
Nashville's attention now turns to a contest in California at 9:30 p.m. CT tonight between the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes.
With L.A. in ninth in the West and 10 points back of the Preds, the Kings doing anything but winning for the rest of the season means Nashville's ticket to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be punched.
In other words, if the Kings lose in any fashion (regulation or overtime/shootout) tonight, Nashville will clinch a berth in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
"You just want to get to the playoffs," defenseman Roman Josi said. "It would've been nice if we got the win and clinched, but we've worked all year… and we'll definitely take it if L.A. loses tonight."
Video: NSH Recap: Johansen scores in loss to Blues
Neither James Neal nor Yannick Weber suited up for the Predators on Sunday and remain day-to-day with upper-body injuries.
Filip Forsberg's assist on Ryan Johansen's first-period goal was the 100th of his career.
Nashville suffered their first loss of the season when Johansen scores a goal (12-1-0).
The Preds home finale, Fan Appreciation Night and Social Media Night, all fall on the same date - April 4 versus the New York Islanders - in Nashville's next game. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. CT.