The Nashville Predators might as well have looked in a mirror, one that reflected an image of themselves from a little more than a week ago.
After all, there was little discernable difference between the way they played in a pair of recent victories at home and the way the Vancouver Canucks played against them Friday. In short, the Predators failed to take advantage of a wealth of first-period chances and eventually fell 1-0 before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
“We’ve been there before where teams have let us hang around,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We were able to get stronger as the game went on. That’s sort of what I think happened to us.”
The only goal came when right wing Dale Wiese, part of Vancouver’s fourth line, was left alone on the back side of the net and was in perfect position to stuff home the rebound of a Maxim Lapierre shot. That happened with 10:46 to go in the contest.
Nashville recorded four of its five third-period shots after that to no avail.
The real failure, though, was that the Predators did not take advantage of chances well before that. They outshot the Canucks, who played in Dallas the previous night, 13-3 in the first period and carried the vast majority of the play.
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo kept it scoreless, though, much as Nashville’s Pekka Rinne did in victories over San Jose and Phoenix on Feb. 12 and 14, respectively.
The Predators were outshot a combined 20-9 in the first periods of those contests both of which remained scoreless until the third period just as this one did. They topped the Sharks 1-0 in overtime and beat the Coyotes 3-0.
“We have to find a way to get a couple [goals] in the first period,” center David Legwand said. “That’s a time to win a hockey game. I think if we get a couple in the first period it could be ‘game over.’”
Instead, the outcome remained well in doubt almost to the halfway point of the third.
It was the 10th time in its 18 games Nashville was tied after two periods. Not once in the previous nine did it lose in regulation (5-0-4).
“We’ve been in that position where if you let teams hang around, they sort of say, ‘Hey, just stick with it for another 20 [minutes] and empty the tanks and see if we can get a puck here,” Trotz said. “Sure enough, they capitalized on just throwing the puck to the net. It wasn’t much.”
It was, however, all they needed.