Matt Duchene scored Nashville's lone goal as the Predators fell to the Buffalo Sabres by a 4-1 final on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result stops Nashville's win streak at five games as they remain at the 50-point mark in the standings.
After an entertaining, 5-4 overtime win against Colorado on Tuesday, the Preds say they simply weren't good enough two nights later, a lesson received as Nashville suffered their first loss of the 2022 calendar year.
"Buffalo was the better team," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. "We learned something about our team. When you go through 82 games, you are presented different challenges. We came off an emotional win versus Colorado, we had a day in between games to regroup ourselves, but we didn't handle this challenge the right way. You have to credit Buffalo, and it goes to show if you're not mentally and physically ready to play, anyone can beat anyone on any given night."
"Definitely not our best game," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "We came out kind of flat, didn't have a good first period. They were just faster, they were quick on pucks and kind of out-battled us. I thought we played a little better in the second, but I think just overall we didn't have enough pressure. We didn't have enough zone time in their end... It's a tough League to win in when you're not at your best."
Buffalo owned a 1-0 lead after one period of play as Mark Jankowski was credited with a goal that the Preds accidentally put into their own net. Nashville's output improved in the second stanza, and at the 13:12 mark, Duchene tallied his third power-play goal in the last two games to even the score at 1-1.
Video: BUF@NSH: Duchene scores PPG in net-front scramble
Before the period was out, however, Jeff Skinner converted on a man advantage and beat goaltender Juuse Saros in front to give the Sabres a 2-1 advantage headed into the final frame. Skinner scored once more at 7:59 of the third for Buffalo's first two-goal lead of the night before the Sabres iced things with an empty-netter.
The Predators outshot and out-hit the Sabres by counts of 30-21 and 45-21, respectively, but the story was told on the scoreboard. Nashville knows they'll need a better showing on Saturday afternoon as they face one of the best in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, on the road.
"We've got to look at some things, and I think it's a good learning process for us," Josi said. "If you don't play your best in this League it doesn't matter who you play. You're not going to win games. So, we've got to learn from it, but we're playing again Saturday. It's an early game, so I think we'll look at some things tomorrow, but after that, we'll look forward and we've got some big games coming up."
"The big thing moving forward is we learned whatever we did from after the Colorado game, to get ready for the Buffalo game as coaches and players, certainly wasn't good enough," Hynes said. "We've got to find a way to be able to do a better job than we did tonight, and now we've got to move our focus. We get a day tomorrow and then we're playing a hot Boston team. They're playing really well right now, it's going to be a big challenge in their building and we've got to get ready here."
Prior to Thursday's game, the NHL named Preds goaltender Juuse Saros to the Central Division squad for the 2022 All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. Additionally, Predators Captain Roman Josi is part of the NHL's "Last Men In" ballot, which allows fans to vote for the final player on each NHL All-Star Game roster. You can vote for Josi at nhl.com/LastMenIn.
The Predators recalled forwards Matt Luff and Cole Smith from the taxi squad ahead of Thursday's contest, and forward Cody Glass was also recalled to the taxi squad from Milwaukee (AHL).
Defenseman Mark Borowiecki missed Thursday's game and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Philippe Myers took Borowiecki's place on the backend against the Sabres. Forwards Filip Forsberg and Yakov Trenin were also absent and remain on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol list.
With their two-game homestand now complete, the Preds will head out on the road for a pair of games starting on Saturday afternoon in Boston against the Bruins.
Video: NSH Recap: Predators drop winning streak at 5 games