Predators overcome huge deficit but lose late to Toronto, 4-3

The Nashville Predators gave away a 3-0 advantage to the Toronto Maple Leafs early tonight, and failed to capitalize on a dramatic comeback as Phil Kessel scored the winner for the visitors late in the 3rd period. Before a large and energetic crowd in Nashville, the Preds did climb back to tie the game during a 9-minute span late in the 2nd and early in the 3rd periods, but outside of that played a very uninspired game that featured ghastly turnovers by a number of players.

Follow after the jump for the good, the bad, and the ugly...

Head coach Barry Trotz can be called to task for two questions heading into this game. First, despite a "tradition" that he describes whereby a goalie who earns a shutout gets the next start, he went with Pekka Rinne tonight, and to put it frankly, Rinne had a poor game, allowing 3 goals on 8 shots. Yes, the skaters in front of him committed some horrible turnovers (especially Erat on the 2nd goal), but the 1st and 3rd Toronto goals in particular seemed to be ones that he should have had. When Dan Ellis came into the game, he made some huge saves to give Nashville a chance at getting back in it.

Perhaps the second question was put best, sarcastically, by @leonwolf on Twitter: "love the persistence of this coaching staff. No matter how many goals 8 and 2 give up, they keep sending them out together." The defense pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein has been a disaster at times this season, and they looked pretty much out of sorts tonight as well, each racking up a -3 for their efforts.

Now, as bad as the giveaways were by Nashville, credit has to be given to the Leafs for making good on them. The second goal, by Alexei Ponikarovsky, is a perfect example. Erat's giveaway was horrible (along with the lack of backup by the D), but Ponikarovsky won a foot-race with Erat all the way down the rink, then drove the net like a freight train to score the goal.

The comeback from down 3-0, however, was encouraging, and for a while it seemed like a win was pretty much inevitable. For shift after shift, various lines put good pressure on in the Toronto zone, and got shots on net. Once the game was tied at 3-3, and the crowd (16,501) gave the team a rousing standing ovation during  a TV timeout, however, it seemed like all the energy left Nashville. Toronto was able to settle the pace back down, get some possession of their own going, and Phil Kessel scored the winner with a nice wrister from up high.

In the end, perhaps it's best that the Preds lost this game, so the lessons to be learned might sting a little bit. Had they won, you have to wonder if they would get too comfortable being able to come back from a large deficit like that.

They head back out on the road, where they've been more successful of late, for their next four games, starting with a back-to-back set Thursday at Phoenix and Friday at Colorado.

The Preds return home Saturday, January 30 vs. the Atlanta Thrashers. For discounted tickets to this or any other Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".

Looking at the advanced even-strength stats, the overall numbers look pretty decent, reflecting the large shooting advantage the Preds enjoyed over the final two periods. That's a bit misleading, however, as when you get a 3-0 lead like that, the dynamic generally turns towards the losing team putting more pucks on net, while the leader plays it safe, dumping and changing more often.

 Even Strength Individual Totals Team Totals While Player Is On Ice
 Player Pos EV TOI Shots Shts Blkd Missed Shts Blocks SOG For SOG Ag SOG +/- Tot SF Tot SA Corsi
 Steve Sullivan L 17:24 1 0 0 0 9 10 -1 16 12 4
 Patric Hornqvist R 16:28 2 1 0 0 11 7 4 20 8 12
 Jason Arnott C 16:09 4 2 2 0 7 4 3 16 5 11
 David Legwand C 14:41 1 0 0 0 6 7 -1 14 13 1
 Marcel Goc C 14:10 3 2 0 0 11 7 4 20 9 11
 J P Dumont R 13:48 0 0 1 0 9 2 7 18 4 14
 Joel Ward R 13:46 2 0 1 1 6 6 0 14 12 2
 Martin Erat R 13:33 1 0 1 1 7 6 1 16 11 5
 Jerred Smithson R 12:00 0 0 0 0 3 5 -2 9 7 2
 Nick Spaling C 6:08 2 2 1 0 4 2 2 8 5 3
 Ryan Jones L 6:05 1 0 0 0 5 2 3 8 5 3
 Wade Belak R 5:19 0 0 0 0 3 2 1 6 5 1
 Ryan Suter D 20:38 2 1 0 1 11 8 3 24 12 12
 Shea Weber D 18:01 3 1 2 0 11 7 4 23 11 12
 Kevin Klein D 17:17 0 2 1 1 7 6 1 14 11 3
 Dan Hamhuis D 16:35 1 0 1 0 6 6 0 13 11 2
 Francis Bouillon D 14:29 2 1 0 0 9 7 2 18 10 8
 Cody Franson D 13:39 2 3 3 0 10 6 4 18 9 9
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