Nashville started a home-and-home series with Pittsburgh on a five-game point streak, but three goals for the Penguins in the first period guided the visitors to a 5-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.
Preds Captain Roman Josi, who saw his goal streak end at five games, thought his team was ready to play, but in-tight conversions on multiple high-danger chances helped the Penguins to a 5-1 lead through two periods.
“We started pretty well. It didn’t seem like a 5-1 game after two periods, and they capitalized on a lot of chances,” Josi said. “We have to do a better job in front of our goaltenders and make sure we defend that area better. I thought we had some chances too, but we couldn’t capitalize.”
“They were opportunistic,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the Penguins. “They got positioning on us on the inside on a few of the goals, and they were able to tap them in. They made the most of the chances they got through two periods.”
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead roughly two minutes into the contest. Craig Smith answered for the Predators two minutes later, but after Ryan Johansen’s shot hit the crossbar, the Penguins tacked on two more goals in the opening period.
Bryan Rust and Juuso Riikola scored in the second period to put Pittsburgh up by four after 40 minutes. Goaltender Pekka Rinne allowed three goals in the first and was replaced in the Nashville net by Juuse Saros, who made 17 saves in 42 minutes of action.
Viktor Arvidsson got one by Tristan Jarry in the third, but that was as close as the Predators got to staging a comeback.
“We worked hard, but they got some bounces early in the game and we were chasing,” Arvidsson said. “The second period was better, and I think we tried to push and push, but we weren’t good enough in front of our net. They won that battle, and they won the game.”
Up next, Nashville heads straight to Pittsburgh in preparation to meet the Penguins once more on Saturday night (at 6 p.m. CT), an opportunity for the Preds to get back into the win column in the final game of the 2019 calendar year.
“It’s a quick turnaround, playing against them again,” Josi said. “We have to show a reaction, be better tomorrow and get a win.”
Predators forward Colton Sissons (lower-body) and Dan Hamhuis (upper-body) were both injured during the first period of Friday’s contest and did not return.
Preds Captain Roman Josi skated in his 600th career game to become the fifth player in franchise history to appear in at least 600 games with the club.
Prior to Friday’s game, the Predators recalled forward Colin Blackwell and defenseman Jarred Tinordi from Milwaukee. Both were healthy scratches against Pittsburgh.
The Predators hosted 17,849 fans at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night, a record for fans at a hockey game in the building.
The Predators and Penguins will face off once more on Saturday night from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Then, the Preds will head to Dallas to prepare to face the Stars in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.