By Amanda DiPaolo
The Predators’ season-high, five-game winning streak ended Saturday night when the Los Angeles Kings clobbered Nashville 6-1. The Predators hadn’t lost in regulation since November 26th against the Minnesota Wild. It was also just the second time this season Nashville has lost in regulation at home. The Predators now have a 8-2-5 record at Bridgestone Arena.
The Kings were coming off a 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. Nashville beat New Jersey by a 3-1 score Friday night. Nashville would become more tired as the game wore on so it was important for the Predators to start strong, however it was Los Angeles who got on the board early, and often.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Predators when Los Angeles scored 15 seconds into the game. Justin Williams scored his 11th of the season when his wrist shot on the stick side of Anders Lindback took the goalie off guard. Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty collected assists.
Predators defenceman Shane O’Brien said the Kings were well prepared. “They jumped all over us a little bit. Obviously, they knew we were coming off back to backs with some travel. It is not an excuse, but they jumped on us and had a great game plan and we made some mistakes that ended up in the back of our net.”
The Predators were able to sustain some pressure in the offensive zone, but without any success and it would be the Kings fourth line to get on the score sheet next. Trevor Lewis scored on the backhand at 8:49 of the opening period. Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kevin Westgarth assisted.
Just 1:12 minutes after Lewis scored, Canadian Olympian Drew Doughty made it 3-0 on Los Angeles ninth shot of the night. It was Doughty’s second goal of the season.
The Predators made a goaltending change just half way through the first period. Lindback allowed three goals on nine shots. Mark Dekanich got his first NHL start, but didn’t fare much better.
Lindback said that he’ll be ready for his next game. “I’m disappointed, but that’s what you always have to do, leave this behind, look over what you could have done better. I’m excited for the next game to try to bounce back.” But with Dekanich being reassigned to Milwaukee of the AHL, Pekka Rinne may start when the Predators next see action Wednesday night.
Nashville did get on the board on the first shift after changing the goaltenders. Steve Sullivan scored 22 seconds after Drew Doughty’s goal cutting the lead briefly to 3-1. Ryan Suter and Colin Wilson picked up the assists.
The Kings were not done their first period scoring frenzy. Steve Begin, in his second game for the Predators, was called for boarding with 5 minutes left in the opening frame. Ryan Smyth got his first goal of the game when the puck bounced off his shoulder and into the net with 4:28 left to play. It was Smyth’s 10th goal of the season.
Nashville had collected points in 10 straight games, outscoring opponents 13-2 in the first period, going 8-0-2 in that stretch. After allowing four goals in the first period, that franchise record tying point streak would come to an end.
Just 1:12 into the second period, Shea Weber got called for a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the boards in the defensive zone. While the Predators were able to kill off the penalty, it didn’t take long for the Kings to add to their lead.
The Kings fourth line again scored, this time Alexei Ponikarovski netted his third goal of the season. The play was made possible on a turn over by Shane O’Brien behind the Predators net. O’Brien had control of the puck and was looking to either skate it out himself or pass it up the ice, instead he coughed the puck up to Oscar Moller– who got the puck to Ponikarovski.
While O’Brien acknowledges that the Predators strong play has put them in a good spot in the Western Conference, for now, he was not happy with his play Saturday night. “I can only speak for myself, but this is probably one of the worst feelings as a player to play as I did tonight in front of the home crowd. That was a team we could have put 7 points behind us.”
With 3:56 left to play in the middle frame, Ryan Smyth notched his second goal of the game, 11th on the season, extending the lead 6-1 Kings. Smyth swatted the puck into the net over the shoulder of Dekanich, stick side.
There was no scoring in the third period.
Nashville went 0-2 on the power play.
In goal for LA was Jonathan Bernier, who collected his third straight win over the Predators.
Sergei Kostitsyn’s eight game point streak also came to an end on Saturday night.
Along with Dekanich, Steve Begin was reassigned to Milwaukee after the game.
Nashville has collected 18 out of 22 possible points in its last 11 games. The Predators next play on Wednesday night in Chicago for their third of six meetings this season. Nashville leads the season series 2-0.
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