Something that hadn’t happened since 1999 took place on Thursday night.
The Florida Panthers came into Bridgestone Arena and won a hockey game.
In front of 15,405 in Music City, the Nashville Predators dropped a close one to the Panthers, 2-1. The win was Florida’s fourth in a row as they improved to 12-9-4.
“We had our foot on the gas periods for the last two periods,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We just dug ourselves a little but of a hole and couldn’t get out of it.”
With rare exception over the last eight games, Nashville has outplayed opponent after opponent but has only posted a 2-5-1 record.
“We’re doing [things] about 95 percent right but, that 5 percent we’re not doing right, they’re scoring,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “When we turn that corner – hopefully it happens soon – we’ll get some better results.”
How many times have we heard “we have to take advantage of their mistakes”? In the opening frame, that’s exactly what Florida did. Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm lost sight of the puck at the blueline, Quinton Howden found it, controlled it and shot it into the back of the net for his third of the season and to put his team up 1-0.
“The first few games of the year, we seemed to score first all the time,” Ellis said. “But, as of late, it’s bounced the other way.”
In the second period, the Panthers extended their lead thanks to a Jonathan Huberdeau power play marker. Nashville responded before the intermission, however. Upon entering the zone, Craig Smith fired a shot from just inside the blueline. The puck got deflected off of the shaft of Roman Josi’s stick cutting across the slot and it beat Roberto Luongo to cut the lead in half.
“Anytime you get a goal late in the period, it’s a great momentum for your team,” Ellis said. “I thought we came out hard in the third and we had some chances but it just didn’t bounce for us tonight.”
This one would end in controversial fashion. James Neal got tripped up by Howden at the Florida blueline but the official also gave an embellishment minor to Neal on the play thereby negating a possible Nashville power play with just over 3:00 left in regulation.
Then, if that wasn’t enough, the Preds appeared to have scored in the final minute but, upon review, it was pretty clear the puck hit both the near post and then the crossbar before bouncing to the corner. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that Nashville continued to play because there was no stoppage. Moments later – instead of waiting for the next whistle to conduct the review – the referees blew the play dead in order to review the play. All of this happened while the Predators still had control inside the Panthers’ zone.
Controversy or not, the Predators came up short on Thursday night, falling to 13-8-4 on the year.
“I thought we played well for the last 40 minutes,” Ellis said. “We should’ve been rewarded differently but we weren’t tonight.”
The Predators will now head out onto the road when they take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night. You can catch all the action on FS-Tennessee and 102.5 The Game.
Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover