Coach Barry Trotz post game comments
Jason Arnott, Cody Franson and Dan Ellis post game comments
Coach Ron Wilson, Jonas Gustavsson, Matt Stajan, and Luke Schenn post game comments
The Nashville Predators suffered their first loss ever to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Sommet Center by a 4-3 margin. The Preds had beaten the Leafs in both prior meetings in Nashville.
For the Predators it was a prototypical "trap" game, playing a lowly regarded Eastern Conference team at home in the middle of seven road games against Western Conference rivals.
Niklas Hagman, Alex Ponikarovsky, and Matt Stajan scored in the first period for the Leafs and Phil Kessel scored the game winner with 5:48 left in the third period.
After falling behind 3-0 early, the Predators scored three unanswered goals by Marcel Goc, Cody Franson and Ryan Jones.
The Predators got off to a horrible start, yielding three goals in the first nine minutes of the contest. At 2:02 Nicklas Hagmen sent a rather innocent looking shot from the right of the Predator net that Pekka Rinne somehow allowed to float through his five hole to give the Leaf's a quick 1-0 lead.
At 5:12 Alex Ponikarovsky stole the puck from Marty Erat near the Toronto Blue line and they battled the length of the ice but Ponikarovsky was able to put it in the Predator net to make it 2-0.
Pekka Rinne's night ended prematurely at 9:00 when another Pred turnover resulted in a goal by Matt Stajan to give the Leafs a 3-0 lead. At that time, Dan Ellis came in to relieve Rinne.
The Leafs led in shots in the first period by a 11-8 margin while the Corsi numbers were tied at 19.
The Predators came out an played a mush stronger game in the second period. At 17:38 the Pred's persistence paid off with a goal by Marcel Goc to cut the Leaf's lead to 3-1.
The Preds out shot the Leafs 9-6 in the middle stanza. The Corsi numbers showed a much wider 21-9 margin in favor of the Preds.
At 4:21 in the third period, Cody Franson scored his fourth goal of the season on a feed from Steve Sullivan. Franson was very excited with the score, "It's been a while since I scored and it was a a point in time of the game when it was a good time to get one and I was pumped up." Franson further explained, "My uncle is a Leaf's fan and growing up I was too so it was kind of special."
The Predators really had the momentum and you could tell that a tie was in the offing. Ryan Jones obliged the crowd with a redirected goal in the slot at 6:19 in the third to make it 3-3.
Toronto seemed to perk up in the last half of the period and surprisingly scored a goal by Phil Kessel to give them a 4-3 lead at 14:12. Dan Ellis claimed that he was screened on the shot, "Our D-man and the forward moved right when he was releasing it and I didn't see it until it got passed the second man."
The Preds continued to mount a charge but received a setback at 17:29 when Kevin Klein was whistled for tripping leaving the Preds fighting a penalty kill when they needed all the men they could get.
The game ended with the Leafs winning 4-3. In the final period the Preds out shot the Leafs 13-5 with the final Corsi spread being 62-36.
Jonas Gustavsson got the win in goal for the Leafs, stopping 27 of 30 Predator shots. Pekka Rinne stopped 5 of 8 shots before being pulled at 9:00 in the first period. Dan Ellis was the hard luck loser after the Preds came back to tie the game. Ellis made 13 saves on 14 Leaf shots.
Storylines from the Game
Predators Were Not Engaged at the Start of the Game...
The Nashville Predators did not appear to be fully ready to play at the opening puck drop. As we have seen in quite a few home games recently, the Preds have allowed other teams to get a quick jump when playing at home, leaving the Preds to have to fight back after getting behind early.
Barry Trotz was surprised at the lack of effort at the start of the game, "There are a lot of guys from Ontario on the team, and we thought they would have pretty good jump. I thought our emotions and our demeanor today were just fine. We just didn’t get it done on the ice."
"We just gave up," said Jason Arnott. "We had a lot of turnovers that we let them capitalize on. Before we knew it, it was 3-0 and we were hiding behind the goal. It took us a couple of periods to get going, but we battled back."
Arnott continued, "We’ve got to learn from this. We know we are losing at home and we’ve got to change it quick. We played well on the road and then we come home and it takes us two periods to get going and by that time, we are too far behind."
Resilient Predators Fought Back to Tie the Game...
Even when the Predators were down 3-0 early in the first period, you still had a feeling that a come back was on the horizon. When their play picked up substantially in the second period, Toronto appeared to be showing a few cracks in their armor.
Ryan Jones described the come back, "We had to get back to our game. We had to get the puck low and grind it out. When we try to get away from our game and make small plays in the neutral zone, we get ourselves in trouble. For us it is all about getting the pucks deep and putting pressure on their defense, creating turnovers, and getting to the front of the net."
"We got back to it the way that we normally play," said Jason Arnott. "We were forechecking really hard, being on the D and getting on the puck. We weren’t doing that during the first, we were just kind of sitting back and allowing too many turnovers."
Predator Fans Did Nashville Proud...
There was a lot at stake off the ice at Monday's game. The Toronto media in general has a fairly negative perception of Nashville as a hockey town and would much rather see the Preds move to a more "traditional" setting (like Hamilton for example).
On Monday night the Predator fans showed up in mass with 16,501 in attendance, leaving only about 600 seats unfilled.
In spite of marginal play on the ice early, the fans were loud and showed the Canadian media that folks in non-traditional areas can be avid hockey fans.
One of the highlights of the evening was a loud standing ovation that lasted through the first television time out in the third period. This was the first one like that in a while and it couldn't have come at a better time. I'm sure folks in Toronto were wondering what was going on as ovations like this are not often seen in traditional markets.
The Predators will be looking forward to a fairly hard practice on Tuesday before heading out on the dad's trip to Phoenix and Denver on Wednesday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass