The Predators capped off a weak- and hopefully forgettable- road trip (going 1-2-1) with a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks last night.
The Canucks finished the night with a 58.8 percent offensive zone start percentage, meaning they were able to win more faceoffs and control more possessions than the Preds were able to do. The Preds' OZS percentage was only 38.2 percent. Vancouver has also able to convert all three of their power play chances into goals, tying with Buffalo for the league's fourth-best power play percentage in the league (25 percent success rate). The Preds are now tied for the league's sixth-worst penalty kill percentage, at only a 75 percent kill rate.
The Preds outshot the Canucks 37-26, but Thatcher Demko simply played a far better game than Pekka Rinne. Demko stopped 34 of 37 Predator shots, finishing the game with a .919 save percentage. On the bright side, Mikael Granlund, who had not recorded a single point since the Oct. 12 game against the Kings, finally broke his skid with a game-tying goal in the third period.
The game started with strong defensive efforts by both teams; the score was 0-0 by the end of 20, and just 1-1 at the end of 40. The third period got out of hand for both teams, but mainly the Preds. Elias Pettersson (on his 21st birthday) gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead a few minutes into the third, but Granlund responded a little over two minutes later to make it 2-2. A couple minutes later and with 45 seconds between each goal, Vancouver had made it 4-2. Filip Forsberg cut the lead to 4-3 with a late power play goal, but Tanner Pearson took advantage of the Preds' empty net with just seven seconds left in the game.
Ryan Johansen now has not scored a goal since the Oct. 10 game against Washington. Viktor Arvidsson only has one goal in the last nine games. Matt Duchene notched three goals during the road trip, but had previously not scored a goal since the Oct. 12 L.A. game.
The Preds are now tied with Vegas, Carolina, and Winnipeg at 21 points- dead center in the league standings. We know this is a competitive team with deep playoff capabilities; it's a matter of putting the pieces together for the machine to fire on all cylinders. We're just a little over a month into the season, but the Preds cannot afford to slip in the standings. Coming from the bottom of the league to the top isn't impossible (ahem, the 2018-2019 St. Louis Blues), but the Preds need to play with more gumption to avoid that kind of situation.
The Preds take on the Blackhawks again on Saturday.