NASHVILLE – They knew they had their hands full.
The Predators came into the night on a three-game losing streak and in danger of falling deeper out of the playoff race.
They were desperate.
And it showed.
Nikita Zadorov scored and Jacob Markstrom was stellar with 27 saves, but the Flames dropped a 2-1 decision on Monday at Bridgestone Arena.
With the loss, Calgary closes out a five-game road trip with a 2-1-2 record for seven of a possible 10 points.
Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, the Flames had a glorious chance to equalize when Craig Smith (tripping) and Tanner Jeannot (delay of game) were ushered to the box only 18 seconds part, putting the Flames on an extended 5-on -3.
The two-man was briefly interrupted when Rasmus Andersson took a high-sticking minor, but they still had 1:25 on the 4-on-3 to work with.
Tyler Toffoli appeared to bring the Flames back on even terms, but a review confirmed the puck was kicked in and played on in a one-goal game.
Despite outshooting the Predators 21-5 in the frame, the Flames were unable to tie it up.
With the loss, the Flames dropped to 21-15-9 on the year.
The Predators had a territorial edge early, and after peppering Markstrom with seven of the first 11 shots of the contest, Josi put the homeside up 1-0 at 8:26. The Nashville captain – who put up a career high 96 points last year – unleashed a one-timer that appeared to be drifting wide of the cage, but banked in off the backside of Nikita Zadorovwho had been dropped to a knee in a battle with Cody Glass at the doorstep.
A turnover inside the Flames blueline nearly put the Preds up by two shortly thereafter, as Filip Forsberg rifled a shot into the pads from the far circle. William Carrier drove hard to the paint and looked to deposit the rebound, but Zadorov tracked back and made a fabulous defensive play to knock Carrier off rhythm.
The Flames needed someone to step up and calm the waters, because things were trending quickly in the wrong direction.
Andrew Mangapane drew a penalty on a point-blank chance at the other end, but the ensuing powerplay produced little. Worse, the offender – Juuso Parssinen – came out of the box and worked a give-and-go with Jeannot, before stuffing a loose puck short-side on Markstrom, who was unable to hug the post with his fully extended left skate.
The goal came at 14:24.
The Preds had a 12-9 lead in shots after one, while the high-danger chances were tilted heavily in their favour, 8-2.
The Flames had a good chance to trim the deficit early in the second when Mikael Backlund led a 2-on-1 with Blake Coleman – but after Coleman got the pass and brought the puck to his forehand alone on goal, Juuse Saros read it well and calmly stuck out the right pad to thwart a golden opportunity.
To their credit, it was a much better period for the Flames, who outshot the Preds 12-9. They had a small lapse after killing a Coleman penalty late in the frame, allowing Nashville to turn back on a rare 4-on-1. But Chris Tanev – capping a 2:03-long shift – came up with a stunning defensive effort, sprawling out and blocking a pass across that would have given the homeside a sure goal.
Then, at 18:07, the Flames finally broke the goose-egg. A broken play at the blueline led to a short 3-on-1, with Backlund feeding a charging Zadorov, who picked the five-hole with a snapper from the hashmarks.
Zadorov now has seven goals on the year, tying a career high. Andrew Mangiapane was credited with the other assist.
Before the period was out, Markstrom came up with a miraculous stop off Mikael Granlund, who one-timed a feed from Nino Niederreiter at the far circle and appeared to have the entire 6×4 available. However, Markstrom pushed to his left and – using a Bill Ranford-inspired stacked-pad routine – kicked his left leg to the sky and blocked the Granlund bid.
THEY SAID IT:
BY THE NUMBERS:
Shots: CGY 39 – NSH 29
Powerplay: CGY 0-for-4 – NSH 0-for-3
hits: CGY 28 – NSH 30
Faceoffs: CGY 40% – NSH 60%
*Scoring odds: CGY 17 – NSH 31
*High-danger scoring chances: CGY 4 – NSH 15
*Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (5-on-5)
Dillon Dube – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli
Milan Lucic – Nazem Kadri – Jonathan Huberdeau
Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Blake Coleman
Trevor Lewis – Adam Ruzicka – Walker Duehr
Noah Hanifin -Rasmus Anderson
MacKenzie Weegar -Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov – Michael Stone
Jacob Markstrom – Starters
The Flames will now fly home and open a four-game homestand on Wednesday against the defending Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Game time is 7:30 pm MT. Click here for tickets.