Your Nashville Predators ventured into New York last night as they headed towards the conclusion of a seven-game road trip that can not end soon enough. What started out promising with wins over Colorado and Los Angeles had plunged to terrible with two straight shutout losses and a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders last night.
No, that picture is not from last night; yes, it is still an accurate representation. The Preds came out flat against the Islanders and were unable to overcome that slow start. The Preds were out-shot 16-10 in the first period and were sloppy at both ends of the ice. They struggled to maintain offensive pressure and were not responsible in their own zone. Yesterday, we mentioned three players to watch for the Islanders and all three factored into the scoring. John Tavares scored the Islanders first goal on the power play on an assist by Frans Nielsen. Tavares found himself alone in the slot with enough time to settle a rough pass and fire it past Marek Mazanec. Man advantage notwithstanding, the Preds were out of position after over pursuing a loose puck and Tavares, of all players on the Islanders, cannot be the guy left unchecked.
The second goal is one Mazanec would probably like to have back, a bad-angle shot from Pierre-Marc Bouchard with another assist from Nielsen. Mazanec cheated down to guard the post and did not react when Bouchard fired it at the net. The third goal was the result of another defensive lapse. The Islanders carried the puck in with ease before Tavares fed Kyle Okposo for a one-timer off the wing. While it was an odd-man rush, there was no pressure on the puck carrier nor were any of the passing lanes taken away. Tavares could have just as easily fired another one by Mazanec.
The Preds finally got a goal from Patric Hornqvist with 5:30 remaining in the game. The goal broke a 174:48 goalless drought. The Preds picked up their play in the second and third period but their increased effort was not accompanied by the required attention to detail. It seemed as though every time they had a chance to make a play the final pass was missed or one last guy was not in position.
One bright spot for the Preds was the play of Mazanec who was making his first NHL start. Mazanec stopped 30 of the 33 Islander shots he faced and played a composed and confident game. He would probably like the second goal back but going down by the post in that spot is a common tactic of NHL goalies and unfortunately resulted in a soft goal. The other two goals were not his fault and would have produced highlight-worthy saves had they been stopped. Mazanec may not be the long-term answer, but he at least proved he deserves another look.
The Preds next four games are against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. They need to figure out what is going on at both ends of the rink and do it quickly or this could be a really tough stretch.