The day after clinching a spot in the postseason, the Nashville Predators saw their four-game win streak come to an end with a 5-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday evening.
The contest opened well for the Preds, but the Flames answered with four-straight goals to claim the victory.
“Tonight, we just seemed like we were off, the execution was off a little bit,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made too many mistakes defensively. We weren’t sharp.”
Roman Josi’s shot from the point found the back of the net to put the Predators ahead 1-0 for the fifth-straight contest, but Calgary responded quickly and with authority.
The Flames tallied twice in each of the first two periods for a 4-1 advantage through 40 minutes of play. First, Lance Bouma slid a puck five-hole on Carter Hutton, and eight minutes later, Kris Russell’s shot from the blue line caught Paul Gaustad’s skate on the way to the cage to give Calgary a one-goal edge.
“We need to tighten up defensively,” Nashville blueliner Seth Jones said. “We gave up way too many chances, point blank, right in front of our net. We kind of left Hutton out to dry tonight a little bit.”
In the second frame, Michael Ferland’s first NHL goal, followed by Jiri Hudler’s score on a partial breakaway stretched the visitors' lead to three goals. With the victory, the Flames reclaimed a playoff spot by moving into third in the Pacific Division.
“I really believe that we played, I would say our most complete game in a long time,” Flames Head Coach Bob Hartley said. “Not that the others were not good, but tonight I’m so proud of our four lines, our six ‘D.’ Jonas Hiller came up with some big saves at the right time. I think it’s a big team win. It feels great.”
Nashville clawed to within two with their second goal from the blue line, when Seth Jones tallied on a delayed penalty at 9:55 of the third. Two goals down was as close as they came, however, with the Flames ultimately adding an empty-net goal for their third win and a season sweep of the Predators.
“I think the third period was our best period,” Laviolette said. “But it seemed like we were slow to get into the battles, or at least getting our second or third man into the battles. When we got there, I don’t think we did a good job of taking those battles into our possession.”
Unable to completely rally in the third, the home team fell to 3-6-2 in the second half of back-to-back games; the Preds defeated the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday.
“It’s still a loss,” Jones said. “We are trying to accomplish better things now, we want to win our division obviously, we want to win our conference, we want to win the League. We want home ice for the playoffs and we will take all the points we can get...We are coming off of a back-to-back; it’s no excuse, we just did not have the legs tonight.”
The Predators will next take to the ice on Tuesday versus the Vancouver Canucks. With the St. Louis Blues not in action on Sunday, Nashville maintains a three-point lead over the Central Division while playing two more contests than St. Louis.
Mike Ribeiro hit the 60-point plateau with his assist on Seth Jones’ third-period marker. The helper was the veteran’s 45th of the season, which set a new franchise record for assists by a Predators center in a season (the previous mark of 44 assists was set by Jason Arnott in the 2007-08 campaign). The 499th assist of his career put Ribeiro back into the team lead in scoring and made him the first Predator to register 60 points in a season since J-P Dumont tallied 65 six years ago in 2008-09.
A two-point game for Roman Josi on Sunday gave him 55 points on the year. The total leads Predators D-men and is tied for second amongst League blueliners. The 24-year-old also moved within one point of the franchise’s record for points in a season by a defenseman (Shea Weber had 56 points in the 2013-14 campaign).
Shea Weber (lower-body), Eric Nystrom (lower-body), James Neal (upper-body) and Matt Cullen (lower-body) did not play in Sunday’s game due to injury.
The 5-2 loss to the Flames concluded the Predators final set of back-to-back games this season. Nashville finishes with a 7-1-3 record in the first half and 3-6-2 in the second half of two games in two nights.
Seth Jones’ third-period goal, coming on his bobble head night, gave the blueliner 25 points on the year, tying his career high.
With 17,113 on hand to watch Nashville take on Calgary, the Predators extended a franchise record with their 27th sell out of the season.