NASHVILLE — Not a single Bruin was penalized in the first period against the Predators on Thursday night. And yet, it seemed for much of the first 20 minutes as if Nashville was playing with the man advantage. They had all of the dangerous chances, all of the momentum, and, at the end of the period, all of the goals.
Those two scores were all the Predators needed, taking the game, 2-0, at Bridgestone Arena.
“We weren’t ready to play tonight. That was pretty evident,” Brad Marchand said. “Unfortunately that cost us the game. They came out a lot harder than we did and got a couple early ones while we were sleeping. Like I said, ultimately cost us the game.”
Marchand would not put the fault on the Bruins’ long road trip, now five games in. The issue was that the Bruins weren’t ready. The Predators were.
“It lost us the game,” Zdeno Chara said. “You’ve got to be playing 60 minutes and we didn’t. Those first 20 decided the outcome of the game.”
Nashville, looking to correct its deficiencies at home, scored just 2:51 into the game on a bid by Craig Smith, with assists going to Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro. That would have been enough.
But the same line collected again at 14:37, when Forsberg found space to knock in the rebound of a shot by Mattias Ekholm. The goal was the 20th of the season for Forsberg and his sixth in the last six games.
The Bruins turned out an improved team in the second period, a more engaged and less sluggish bunch. But they were not able to eat into the Predators’ two-goal lead. Their best chance came in the final minute, on a Loui Eriksson-to-David Pastrnak feed on the doorstep that yielded only a pad save by Pekka Rinne (29 saves).
“It wasn’t good enough,” coach Claude Julien said. “Obviously the first period wasn’t very good. Theirs was, extremely good. They came at us hard and we kept turning pucks over in our own end. Because of that, they got a couple of goals there.
“But the second period was much better than the first. They didn’t get much, but at the same time [I] didn’t think we battled or we worked hard enough to get on the inside. For the longest of time there, we just seemed to be playing on the outside, making it easy for their goaltender to make those saves.”
Boston had a particularly brutal time on the power play, especially in the third period. The Bruins have just one power-play goal in their last 10 games, against the Kings. That makes them 1 for 36 in those 10 games and 0 for 19 on the road trip.
“I thought we had a few looks,” Marchand said. “They pressured pretty hard. The guys moved it around pretty good, had a few chances. But at the end of the day, we do have to get something on the power play.”
They came the closest to scoring at 2:24 of the third, on the power play, when Torey Krug hit a post and the puck eventually went into the net. But it was ruled that the whistle had blown before the goal.
That might have changed the rest of the game. But play was whistled dead. And, in the end, so were the Bruins.
They had their last best chance to erase the errors of the first period with 3:29 left in the third period as Ekholm went off for cross-checking, giving the Bruins the fourth power play of the night. Tuukka Rask (22 saves) went off, leaving the net empty, but the Bruins still could not score on Rinne, who had been relegated to backing up his backup in the two previous games.
With three wins and two losses in the first five games of this road swing, Saturday’s game at Dallas could change the trip from successful to mediocre very quickly.
So, Chara said, the team has to figure some things out.
“We’ve got to for sure regroup tomorrow,” he said. “A game like this, for sure it’s something that we have to address. We have to correct mistakes made. But for sure we want to finish on the right note this road trip, but obviously a lot more emphasis on winning battles and awareness and focus, playing for 60 minutes next game.”