The Predators found a way once more to tie the game late, but Nashville ultimately fell to the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. The loss snaps Nashville’s franchise record 10-game win streak, but still gives them points in 11 consecutive contests.
Nashville went almost 58 minutes between goals in regulation time, but puck luck prevented the Preds from running up the score as they hit the post on a number of occasions on the night, an 11th consecutive win not meant to be.
“It didn’t go our way on the scoreboard, but the guys played hard,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think we hit the post six times – it just didn’t bounce our way tonight. You hit the post six times, and you’re wondering if it’s going to be your night. It was tough.”
“I thought we played well for the last 30 minutes,” Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “We had chances and it seemed like the puck was dancing on the goal line a couple of times down there. But, we get a point and we move on.”
It was Ekholm who struck just 1:17 into the contest, streaking down the right side and beating Keith Kinkaid for his 10th of the season and a 1-0 lead. However, Sami Vatanen evened the contest before the period was out, and then Brian Boyle deflected a shot past Juuse Saros in the middle frame to give New Jersey a 2-1 advantage after 40 minutes.
With 1:06 remaining on the clock, Ryan Johansen banged home a rebound to tie the score and send the Bridgestone Arena crowd into a frenzy as the Preds earned their 98th point in the standings on the season.
After a back-and-forth overtime session, it was Boyle who eventually ended it in the shootout to keep Nashville from attaining the League’s longest win streak of the season.
“We have to be sharp,” Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “We have to really tune into our system – tune into what kind of team we want to be in the playoffs. We have 14 games left to put it all together and be ready for the playoffs.”
Sure, the Predators are proud of rattling off 10 straight wins, but ultimately, as Johansen explained, it’s about the process and continuing to play the game the right way, no matter the result. And even though Nashville fell short on Saturday, with a couple of items they’d like to improve before Tuesday, there was still a lot to like against a club that is fighting for the playoff lives.
“Tonight was a really hard-fought game,” Laviolette said. “New Jersey came in here – they’re on the bubble – you can tell they’re trying to solidify their spot and punch their ticket because they played the game extremely hard. There wasn’t a lot of time. There wasn’t a lot of space. I thought our guys did a good job. We knew it was going to be a tough game. In the end, it came down to breakaways.”
While it might not matter in the moment, this club still made their mark on the franchise record books with the streak in what they hope will be just one of many rewrites as the postseason looms.
“It speaks for the team,” Josi said. “[To win 10 in a row], it shows a lot of consistency and that’s what you want toward the playoffs, you want to play with a lot of consistency. We’ve been playing really well lately, and we’re hoping to keep in going.”
At home, Nashville has earned a point in seven-straight games against New Jersey (3-0-4).
Preds Captain Roman Josi returned to action on Saturday after missing the previous four games with an upper-body injury.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm now has 10 goals on the season, the first time in his career he has reached double digits in the category.
Nashville conduces their four-game home stand on Tuesday night when the Winnipeg Jets come to town. The Preds will then jet off on a three-game trip, beginning in Arizona on Thursday.