There came a point in Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks that Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz figured his team was destined to earn at least a point.
“We were on our heels for most of the third period, but we started to stabilize the game as the period was winding down,” he said. “I thought we were in pretty good shape to at least get a point — get it to overtime.”
They never got there. The Canucks scored twice in the final 2:30 — one of the goals was an empty-netter —– and ended the Predators’ six-game win streak.
In a way, it was consistent with the way this year’s playoff chase has gone.
With five games remaining in the regular season — the next is Thursday at Colorado — Nashville has gone beyond regulation 18 times. That’s right in line with the last two seasons, each of which ended with the Predators having gone to overtime in 20 contests.
The difference is that this season the bulk of those lengthy contests occurred early. Nashville went to overtime 10 times over the final 28 games of 2009-10 and had just eight games after Feb. 1 in which it did not earn at least a point.
This year the Predators have gone beyond regulation just eight times since Jan. 1. Seven of their last eight defeats, including Tuesday’s, have come in regulation.
“Those were some big points,” captain Shea Weber said following the loss to Vancouver. “But there’s nothing we can do now.”
The fact is that Nashville has relied on overtime to a much lesser degree this season than in previous ones.
With 10 overtime/shootout losses, the current team already has set the franchise record. Its 33 regulation victories already is equal to the number it had in 2009-10 and five more than in 2008-09.
Barring a rally over the remainder of the regular season, the Predators will finish with a losing overtime record for just the second time in the last seven seasons.
That does not mean that they wouldn’t have taken overtime — and at least one point — in their most recent outing.
“I think we definitely could have had a better third [period],” center Mike Fisher said. “It’s a little bit frustrating to lose that way when we were so close to getting a point.”
Austin Watson, the Nashville Predators’ first-round pick in the 2010 draft, was signed to a three-year entry level contract Wednesday.
Watson recently completed his third season in the Ontario Hockey League with 68 points (34 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and was second in points.
The 6-foot-4, 193-pound forward was Peterborough’s 2010 nominee for the OHL’s most valuable player.
Nashville drafted Watson 18th overall last June.