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Preds Drop Two Of Three, Slide To Second In Central Standings

The Preds didn’t exactly have the best three games in the past week. Nashville managed just one win in the three matchups, but didn’t even look good in the lone win. The team isn’t making things easier by constantly having to chase from behind. In each of the three games, Preds were down by two goals at least once. They tend to fight their way back into games, but that is not the way a team wants to be playing.

Nashville just seems to be going through one of those stretches that all teams go through at some point in the season. The team is playing some uninspired hockey right now, and it is disappointing to watch. However, the good news is that it’s happening now and not in the playoffs.

THE GAMES:

Tuesday (2/13) vs. St. Louis Blues: 4-3 Win (OT)

Tuesday night’s game in Nashville might have been one of the most exciting games in the history of the franchise. Former Predator Carter Hutton was in net for St. Louis, and he was hoping for a successful homecoming. Unfortunately, for as good as he played, things did not end up going his way.

The Predators started the game off playing pretty slowly and looked mundane. Before they knew it, the Blues had a three-goal lead. The Preds kept on playing despite their chances seeming futile; facing a three-goal deficit, Hutton was looking unbeatable — until about midway through the third period, that was. The party started when a big rebound kicked right to Calle Jarnkrok, and he was able to put it in an empty net.

That goal must have kickstarted the scoring because five minutes later Austin Watson scored shorthanded. Then, just one minute after his first goal, he scored again to tie the game. In overtime, it didn’t take long before a tripping penalty (drwan by Filip Forsberg) set up Nashville’s winning goal. Forsberg made the most of his penalty opportunity and sent the fans home happy.

Thursday (2/15) vs. Calgary Flames: 4-3 Loss

The Preds might not have gotten the outcome they wanted on Thursday night, but the game was a really entertaining one. Despite getting on the board first, Nashville’s goals were always answered by a Calgary response.

After two periods, the score was tied at two goals apiece. Three minutes into the third saw the Flames take their first lead of the game. Nashville tried its hardest to respond, but were unable to and ended up giving up another goal. After allowing three consecutive goals, the Preds were shocked to be looking at a 4-2 deficit.

A few minutes after falling behind by two, Nick Bonino was able to redirect a slap pass from Pontus Aberg for a goal. After getting back in it, the game had a similar to feel to the week’s earlier game. Alas, Flames’ goalie David Rittich made some spectacular saves down the stretch to conserve a Calgary victory.

It just wasn’t the Preds’ night, leading to Pekka Rinne’s first regulation loss since Jan. 16.

Saturday (2/17) vs. Detroit Red Wings: 3-1 Loss

Longtime pre-alignment rival Detroit’s visit to Nashville brought a popping Bridgestone Arena atmosphere on Saturday night. Sadly, the Predators did not return the favor.

Nashville came out of the gates flat and allowed two goals in just the first 10 minutes of play. One was on a breakaway, and the other on a redirection that Juuse Saros had no shot of stopping. For the third time this week, Nashville was down two goals.

After surrendering those two, the Preds looked alive again. They were faster and played like the better team (by far), but just couldn’t seem to score. Really, that seemed to be the story of this week. Nashville just has not been able to put the puck in the net like it’s accustomed to doing.

Despite that, the Preds eventually did break through for one goal thanks to a beautiful P.K. Subban pass to Craig Smith. It would wind up being little too late, though, as the comeback efforts fell short for the second time this week. Nashville really didn’t play that badly, but faced a goaltender who excelled on the wrong night. The Preds should tip their caps and move on, and they’ll get their rematch on Tuesday.

WHERE THEY STAND

Its’ been a tough week for the Predators, and that showed after they dropped to second in the Central Division following Winnipeg’s win on Sunday. The Jets now hold a two-point advantage over the Preds, 79-77, but Nashville still has two games in hand on the first place Jets. Nashville also holds the tiebreaker between the two.

The week of change continued after Dallas beat the Blues on Friday to move into third place on the tiebreaker. Subsequently, the Blues dropped to the first wild card spot, but both have 72 points. Minnesota follows up St. Louis with 69 points.

Just like last week, the bottom two remain the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks. The difference now is that the Blackhawks have pretty much eliminated themselves from playoff contention. With only 58 points, it will be almost impossible to regain a wildcard spot. On the other hand, the Avalanche have 66 points and are only two spots outside a playoff spot.

Now, with only two months left in the schedule, every game becomes valuable to each team.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Preds have a busy schedule this week. They will play four games this week, but luckily host three of them in Nashville. Tonight brings the Ottawa Senators into town before a trip tomorrow night to Detroit with hopes of avenging Saturday’s loss. A win would be Nashville’s first against Detroit since 2013.

Thursday, the Preds returns home with a matchup against San Jose. Then, to close out the week, the Predators will play the St. Louis Blues once again. This game will have an early start time and will be nationally broadcasted on NBC.

Monday (2/19) vs. Ottawa Senators 8 p.m. ET

Tuesday (2/20) @ Detroit Red Wings 8 p.m. ET

Thursday (2/22) vs. San Jose Sharks 8 p.m. ET

Sunday (2/25) vs. St. Louis Blues 12 p.m. ET, TV: NBC

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

THIRD STAR: Scott Hartnell

Scott Hartnell did not really have the best of weeks, but being honest, nobody really had a good week. Despite this, Hartnell did surpass a major milestone this week, and that’s good enough to get him a third star.

Hartnell only had one point this week, a secondary assist on Bonino’s goal against Calgary. However, that one point gave Hartnell the 700th point of his career. This puts him at 23rd for most points by an active player. It’s not the biggest milestone in the world, but one that should still be celebrated.

SECOND STAR: Juuse Saros

Saros only played in one game this week, and it ended up being a loss, but that is not reflective on how he played. Saros did give up two early goals, but he still made 31 saves. This might seem light to be considered for the second star, but considering the way everyone else played this week, Saros is more than deserving.

Saros made some crazy saves in Saturday’s game. His team still lost, but had it not been for Saros, the Preds would not have even been able to get back in it. He did all that he could to get his team the win, but the players in front just could not reciprocate.

FIRST STAR: Austin Watson

This one is kind of a no-brainer. Watson scored two goals this week and was essential to Nashville’s comeback against St. Louis. He scored a goal on the penalty kill (making it even sweeter) to get the game within one. Then he continued to take matters into his own hands, tying the game up just two minutes later.

It’s not too often that Watson will find himself as one of the three stars of the week, but his play made it impossible for him not to be. He will have to keep this play up moving forward, especially if the rest of his team continues to struggle.

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