The horn signifying a goal never sounded inside Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
Within the confines of their locker room, therefore, players sounded off among themselves. A players-only meeting followed their second consecutive shutout defeat, this one 3-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks before a sellout crowd of 17,113.
“I would describe it as just players talking among themselves,” forward Colin Wilson said. “You have the coaches telling you what to do, but it’s up to the people in the dressing room. So we had to talk amongst ourselves and get going.”
No doubt a prime subject of conversation was the fact that gone, along with the goals, is any margin for error that might have existed in the Western Conference playoff chase.
With the loss, their third straight regulation defeat and fourth in the last five games, the Predators fell out of the top eight in the conference standings.
Officially, they are ninth after having started the day in seventh. They are one of six teams with 70 points (Chicago improved to 70), but based on the first two tiebreaking procedures (games played and non-shootout victories) they are fifth among that group.
“We’re fighting for everything,” center Mike Fisher said. “We’ve got to find ways [to score]. There’s no excuse for it.”
Nashville’s last goal was from Shea Weber with 50 seconds to go last Saturday against Phoenix (a 3-2 defeat). On Tuesday, it lost 4-0 at Columbus.
So it is that the Predators carries a scoreless streak of 120:50 into its next contest, Saturday at Dallas — another of the teams at 70 points. It’s well short of the franchise record for time between goals (166:44 in December 2000) but it could not be happening at a worse time.
“Its not easy to score right now,” Weber said. “Like everyone says, it’s the playoffs. It’s a tough game for everyone every night, and nothing’s going to come easy.
“… We have to find a way to skate one right into the net.”
Colin Wilson did almost exactly that with 5:59 to play. He jammed home a rebound from the slot area only to have the goal waved off when referees ruled David Legwand interfered with the goalie.
The final shot total was slightly in Nashville’s favor (31-25) but the attempts were not even close. The Predators got off 67 in all — 21 were blocked and 15 missed the net — as compared to just 42 by the Blackhawks.
The quest for a goal finally became so dire that coach Coach Barry Trotz pulled goalie Pekka Rinne with more than two and a half minutes remaining.
It’s not as if Chicago was the picture of offensive precision either. Two of its three goals were unassisted, including the last of which was scored by Patrick Sharp into the empty net.
“I thought the whole defensive corps played well,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We were strong in our own end, good gaps and made some plays up to our wingers and forwards. I thought that was the big thing — how solid we were defensively.”
Trotz’s remarks to his team afterward were brief, not to mention upbeat, which left the players time to have their say.
“We had some chances … couldn’t find them,” Trotz said. “There were some loose pucks every period that we couldn’t get a handle on. … I could look at this game and give you 100 positives versus the Columbus game the other night.
“As I said to the guys, ‘[Thursday] was an important game. Funny thing is, the next game is going to be even more important. And then the game after that is going to be even more important.’”
The next goal might be most important of all.
• The Predators learned prior to the game that center Marcel Goc will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
He finishes the campaign with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 51 games. His plus-10 rating is second on the team.
“No one wants to hear that Goc is going to be gone for the whole year,” Trotz said. “Goc is a pretty good, solid player for us.”
• Good news on the injury front was that defenseman Ryan Suter (upper body) and left wing Sergei Kostitsyn (upper body) both returned to the lineup. Each missed the game at Columbus.
Suter was second in ice time 25:10. Kostitsyn played 17:27, second among the team’s forwards, but did not have a shot on goal.
• Kevin Klein went to the training room after he was taken hard into the boards behind the Nashville goal near the mid-point of the third period. He eventually returned to action and Trotz declared the defenseman unhurt.
• Jonathon Blum, recalled on Tuesday, earned rave reviews in just his second NHL appearance, which included two shots on goal, two hits, two takeaways and two blocked shots.
“He definitely [was] in our top three [defensemen]. He might have been in our top two,” Trotz said. “I thought he was outstanding for a young guy in his second game — lots of poise, he made smart plays [and] good decisions.”