By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators tried for their seventh consecutive win when they traveled to Florida to take on the Panthers, but fell just short. Both teams last played on Tueday night. Florida had come off a 4-3 overtime win against Washington. Nashville dumped Minnesota 5-1.
The Panthers opened scoring at 3:22 into the opening frame. Radek Dvorak notched his sixth goal of the season. Florida’s goal came off a turnover made by Nashville’s Francis Bouillon in the neutral zone. Dvorak broke in from the left side of Rinne and was able to beat the netminder, who has only allowed one goal in each of his last five starts before Thursday night. Marty Reasoner had the primary assist.
When scoring first, Nashville is solid, boasting a 15-1-4 record, but Florida has allowed leads to slip away this season. Just Tuesday, the Panthers were 3-0 up on the Capitals but allowed Washington to tie the game before the end of regulation.
At 10:50 into the period, David Legwand shot the puck on goal, picked up his own rebound, skated behind the net and spotted Colin Wilson out front in the slot. Wilson burried the puck to tie the game. Marek Svatos picked up the secondary assist. The goal was Wilson’s 11th of the season.
Ryan Suter was called for slashing with under a minute to play in the first period. It was the first of three minor penalties Nashville took. The Panthers are ranked 30th in the League on the power play. Nashville has the third best penalty kill percentage going into the game, and allowed no power play goals in Florida.
The Suter penalty carried over after the whistle to end the first period so Florida started the second period with 1:25 of power play time remaining.
The penalty was barely over for an entire shift and the Predators went straight back to the box. Shane O’Brien was called for slashing. Florida got no shots on the second power play.
Nashville’s best chance to take a lead in the second period came when Goc picked up the puck in the offensive zone and was all alone behind all Florida players in front of Clemmensen. Goc’s wrist shot couldn’t get past the Panthers netminder.
The first opportunity for the Predators on the man advantage came at 9:03 of the second period when Stephen Weiss hooked Jerred Smithson behind the Predators net.
Nashville was unable to sustain any pressure in Florida’s end of the rink. No shots on net were recorded during the power play.
At 14:03 into the period, Nashville had to kill off its third penalty of the game when Joel Ward was called for high sticking.
The Predators did have another man advantage with just 2 minutes left in the period when Dvorak hooked Svatos. For the second straight power play, Nashville was unable to generate any offense.
In the third period Joel Ward drew a penalty with 13 minutes to play in regulation. It was Nashville’s third opporunity to get something going on the man advantage. This time Nashville was able to sustain some pressure but the Predators were still unable to score on the power play.
Legwand did give Nashville the 2-1 lead when he scored his fifth goal of the season. Legwand’s shot beat Clemmensen high on the stick side. The veteran forward has five points in his last three games, three goals and two assists.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter picked up the assists on Legwand’s goal. Weber’s assist extends the captain’s career high points streak to seven games. Going into Thursday night’s game, the Predators were 11-1-1 when Weber registers a point but that stat would not improve at the end of 60 minutes.
The Panthers tied it up with only 6:29 to play in the third period. Rostislav Olesz picked up his third goal of the season when he skated into the play taking a rebound on Bryan McCabbe’s shot before the Predators defensemen could get to the puck.
Florida scored again just 2:14 seconds after the Olesz goal when David Booth’s wrist shot beat Rinne who was screened and unable to see the shot. There were only four minutes left in regulation and Nashville was unable to get the equalizer.
The Predators need to try to avoid their streaky pattern of play. In December, the Predators won five straight games and then went on to lose the next five before going on their current six game winning streak. If the Predators start a losing streak it will come at a very bad time. The Predators have a home-and-home series coming up this Saturday and Sunday against Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
There are very limited tickets left for Saturday night’s game at Bridgestone Arena against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Fans of the game don’t have to wait until Saturday night to catch some action on the ice. Friday and Saturday, the Bridgestone Arena plays host to NCAA hockey for the first time ever.
The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers face off against the Merrimack College Warriors, Friday night at 7 p.m. and again Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. before the Predators take to the ice.
Predators fans who anticipate local native Blake Geoffrion to soon wear a Nashville jersey should take interest in a couple of local players on the Chargers team — Geoffrion’s two younger brothers, freshman forward Brice Geoffrion and sophomore forward Sebastian Geoffrion.
Tickets for both games are available at the box office and start at just $10. Students with a college ID can purchase tickets for $5 at the box office.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is Saturday night when the Preds take on the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.