Mark Dekanich had nothing to lose.
It was 19 other Nashville Predators who basically handled that part of it during the first 9:59 of Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. That’s when they allowed three goals on nine shots.
So it was that Dekanich, a 24-year-old, made his NHL debut as a spur-of-the-moment replacement for Anders Lindback with 10:01 remaining before the first intermission. It mattered not that he allowed another three goals of his own (on 25 shots) in what was the Predators’ most lopsided defeat of the season, 6-1 before a crowd of 16,734 at Bridgestone Arena.
“I just take it how it is — I got to play a game in the NHL,” Dekanich said. “That’s a dream come true. I felt good and I think I played well. A lot of the bounces weren’t on our side.”
Coming into the contest, Nashville had allowed three goals or more 13 times this season and had won just four of those games. Two of those victories came in a shootout, meaning it actually had outscored the opposition twice in those circumstances.
Thus, the three goals allowed early all but sealed the Predators’ fate, particularly when it was their fifth game in eight nights and second in as many days.
“[Lindback] has been winning us games, and we had been getting bounces,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “[Saturday] was just one of those nights. You just have to find a way to get going again and get back into it. We weren’t able to do that.”
Their tidy record (17-8-6, fourth in the Western Conference), five-game win streak and 10-game run with at least one point earned at the start of play primarily were products of defense and goaltending.
Lindback, in particular, had been a rock. Making his eighth straight start, he led all rookie goaltenders in goals-against average (2.08) and save percentage (.931). He also had the opportunity to become the third to record his 10th win of the season.
It was clear that things were different on this night when the puck got behind him for the first time 15 seconds after the opening faceoff. It was the third-fastest goal ever allowed by Nashville.
“They got the second goal and at that point I thought about maybe pulling [Lindback],” coach Barry Trotz said. “But I wanted him to fight through it a little bit and see if he could.
“It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t get a lot of help.”
The switch to Dekanich paid early dividends as Steve Sullivan scored 24 seconds later and cut the deficit to two, 3-1.
The positive vibe was short-lived, though. The Kings got their fourth before the end of the first period. After 20 minutes, 13 different Nashville players had a minus-1 rating.
The Kings added two more in the second period and expanded their margin to a significant degree. They did so with some unusual goals, including a pair knocked in out of the air and one or two others off rolling pucks.
Six different Los Angles players had two points each led by Ryan Smyth, who scored twice.
None of the Predators’ previous defeats were by more than three goals.
“It’s tough, especially on a night when they whacked two out of the air, the one goes off Smyth, over the goalie and in,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen that many in one game. Usually you see one bounce like that.”
More often than not you also see only one goalie per team. This was not one of those nights.
• Sullivan’s goal made him the fourth player to score 100 goals with the Predators. It was his 304th game with Nashville.
The others to do so are David Legwand (154 goals), Martin Erat (128) and Jason Arnott (107).
Sullivan also hit that milestone with his previous team, Chicago. He had 118 goals in 370 contests with the Blackhawks.
• Defenseman Cody Franson missed his second straight game because he was back home in western Canada for the funeral of a family member.
Right wing Patric Hornqvist missed his third straight with an upper body injury.