Steve Sullivan was more than happy to wile away the final 15 seconds of the second period behind his own net even as many in the crowd at Bridgestone Arena voiced their displeasure.
“We came into the dressing room feeling extremely good about ourselves and thinking that we had the game in control,” Sullivan said. “It was just a matter of battling for 20 minutes and we’d been in (that) position the last couple days.
“We thought we were going to get the job done. We thought we had the game in control.”
If that was the case, they ultimately lost control and a critical Western Conference contest 2-0 on Tuesday to the Los Angeles Kings, who did all of their scoring in those final 20 minutes.
The defeat did not cost Nashville its place in the conference standings (fifth) but it did deprive the team of an opportunity to put some distance on one its closest pursuers. Sixth-place Detroit, a winner against Edmonton, closed to within one point, and the Kings crept to within two. Both teams have played two fewer games than the Predators.
“This was a really big game for us as far as the standings,” defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. “It was against a team that’s right there with us. Our goal is to finish as high as we can. This was a four-point game for us and it’s tough giving up those points.”
Sullivan’s confidence at the end of the second period stemmed from the fact that the Predators had answered a sub-par opening 20 minutes, during which they were outshot 18-8, with a similarly dominant performance of their own – a 15-4 edge in shots – in the middle stanza.
As recently as 10 days earlier Nashville played back-to-back games in which they were tied after two periods (March 20 vs. Columbus and March 21 at St. Louis) and won both.
In a way, though, that trend was ancient history.
The latest development has been Nashville’s inability to score on its own ice. Last Saturday night it dropped a 1-0 shootout to Detroit. That combined with this one – the first career shutout for 21-year-old Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Bernier – extended the Predators’ scoreless streak at home to 160:32.
“This time of year it’s tough to score,” coach Barry Trotz said. “You look at the last seven games … they’re real tight games. There’s not much going on in terms of the offense because everyone’s checking really well, everyone’s battling, everyone’s competing.
“… You just have to grind it out.”
• Nashville set a franchise record for wins in a month with 11 in March. It played 17 times this month, more than any other team in the league, and went 11-5-1.
The previous mark was 10 wins in November 2006 and January 2007.
“If you would have told me on March 1 that we’d be 11-5-1 for March, I’d probably go, ‘Let’s start April right now,’” Trotz said.
• Forward Joel Ward was back in the lineup after having missed the previous four games due to injury.
He played a total of 18 minutes and was used in all situations, including the power play (1:55) and the penalty kill (0:44). David Legwand was the only other player on the ice for at least 40 seconds in both special teams situations.
“I started off a little slow,” Ward said. “But as the game progressed, I kind of felt a little bit better.
• The Predators had won their previous seven – and nine out of their last 10 – against the Kings. That win streak began with a 5-4 victory on Oct. 25, 2008.