By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators lost their third straight game on Thursday night and may also have lost Marty Erat. The winger left the game in the second period when he crashed into the boards after a short-handed breakaway attempt.
Pekka Rinne got the start in goal for Nashville. It was Rinne’s first start since December 1st against Columbus. At game time, Rinne boasted a .942 save percentage at home. Brian Elliott was in net for the Senators. It was Elliot’s first game against the Predators.
Tootoo was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday night’s game in Chicago. Belak was a healthy scratch for the 28th time this season.
The Ottawa Senators got out to a fast start leading the shots on goal 9-1 before the three minute mark and registered some decent early scoring opportunities. Ryan Shannon had a clear shot alone in front of Rinne but was stoned by the Finnish goaltender before the first minute of play drew to an end.
The Senators did get on the score sheet first. Alex Kovalev got his first goal in 11 games at 9:35 into the first period. Kovalev tipped in a shot by Peter Regin.
By the midway mark of the first period, the referees got their whistles out and didn’t put them away until the end of the middle frame.
Jerred Smithson was called for interference 11:16 into the first. The Predators were able to kill off Ottawa’s man advantage. Nashville got its first power play 14:34 into the first period when Chris Phillips held up Colin Wilson, stopping what looked like at least a partial breakaway. Phillips was called for interference. Nashville didn’t score on the man advantage but they did generate some opportunities and registered three shots on goal.
The Senators got their second power play with just 47 seconds left in the period. Joel Ward was sent to the box for high sticking Jason Spezza. Nashville was able to kill off the man advantage.
The penalties kept coming in the second period.
Shane O’Brien started and ended the period in the box. At 3:18 of the second period, O’Brien was called for hooking Shannon and Ottawa capitalized on the opportunity to take a 2-0 lead. Nick Foligno scored on a rebound, glove side at 4:58 of the middle frame. Foligno’s goal would end up being the game winning tally.
The first shift after the Senators’ goal, Sergei Kostitsyn drew a penalty when he was tripped by Jarkko Ruutu at 5:09 of the period. After the penalty had expired, Phillips attempted to clear the puck but it was intercepted by Nashville and Marcel Goc cut the lead in half at 7:16. Cody Franson assisted on the goal. It was the first goal in eight games for Goc and his seventh of the season.
Tootoo was called for tripping Kovalev just past the halfway mark of the second period. With Tootoo in the box, Erat went in alone on Elliott but could not get the puck up over his pads. Erat, skating at full speed, then lost an edge and fell into the boards, back first. He left the game, in what appeared to be considerable pain, and did not return.
The Predators and Senators would again exchange penalties to end the second period with O’Brien, Jesse Winchester and Foligno all heading to the box. No goals were scored.
The third period featured no goals or power play opportunities.
Nashville has only scored one goal in each of its last three games. With a potential injury to Erat, Nashville fans will be hoping for David Legwand’s healthy return to the lineup after Christmas. As for players already in action, Cal O’Reilly has not been producing as of late and saw only 7:02 of ice time Thursday night. The only other player to play under 10:00 for Nashville was Erat. Nick Spaling played over 17 minutes. Predominately known as a penalty kill specialist with limited ice time, Spaling had four shots on goal and centered Patric Hornqvist and JP Dumont.
The entire NHL now has a two-day break for Christmas and will start back up December 26th. Nashville travels to St. Louis on Sunday to play the Blues.
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