The game was a veritable Nashville Predators’ time capsule.
There was a sense of history in that it was the last at Bridgestone Arena as division and conference rivals with the Detroit Red Wings. There was an eye to the future given that it was the NHL debut of 18-year-old forward Filip Forsberg.
And it was undeniably a part of the present when goals – oh yeah, and victories – don’t come easy.
Nashville’s losing streak reached six games Sunday with a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings before a sellout crowd. It was the ninth time this season the Predators failed to score a goal, the third time during the streak and the fourth in the last nine contests.
“We have to try and find a way to score goals,” captain Shea Weber said. “It’s the same thing we have been [saying] in the last however many games. We just have to find a way to do it.”
The embodiment of the current struggles came with 13:34 remaining when Bobby Butler was awarded a penalty shot. With an opportunity to tie the game, the 25-year-old forward faked, moved the puck to his forehand … and whiffed on the shot. The puck slid harmlessly to the right of Detroit’s net and another chance to score went unrealized.
Matt Halischuk failed to convert on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, and two first-period power plays yielded some quality chances but did nothing to change the scoreboard. The Predators outshot the Red Wings 13-9 in the opening 20 minutes but failed to keep pace after that and ended up with 10 fewer (32-22) for the game.
“It’s scoring on those chance and making good on those chances,” center David Legwand said. “Obviously, a team like Detroit isn’t going to give you many of them. We had three or four A-plus chances – we don’t score on them – and a couple power plays that we didn’t find the back of the net. That kind of cost us.”
Nashville has played 43 of this season’s 48 games, which is the most in the Western Conference, yet has scored fewer goals than the all of the other 14 teams except San Jose (95 in 41). At its current pace (2.232 goals per game), it is ahead of the worst offensive season in team history by the slimmest of margins (2.231 in 2002-03).
The hope is that Forsberg, the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft, will prevent such issues -- eventually.
“I like his intelligence,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He sees the ice well. He’s not rattled. He’s going to be fine.”
Acquired in a recent trade with Washington and following the completion of his season in Sweden’s second division, he flew to North America on Saturday for a brief audition with his new team. He can play as many as five games without burning a contract year, and this was the first of those contests.
He played 18:37, third among all Predators forwards, had two shots on goal but also committed two giveaways and had a minus-2 rating.
“Of course, it’s a big difference from where I’ve played before, he said. “There was more skill than I’m used to. … Yeah, it was high tempo out there.”
The thoughts of what might be for Forsberg were enhanced by the fact that Detroit’s first two goals came from skilled Swedish players.
Henrik Zetterberg made it 1-0 at 6:23 of the second period when he converted a bounce off the boards behind the Nashville. Johan Franzen out the game out of reach when he scored off a turnover with 2:59 to play.
There was a time when the Red Wings, who will play in the Eastern Conference next season under an approved plan for realignment, routinely exploited an edge in skill over the Predators. Nashville won just six times in the first five seasons of the rivalry (27 games) but over time closed the gap considerably.
In the previous four seasons the Predators were 13-8-3 against the Red Wings in the regular season and eliminated Detroit in the opening round of last year’s playoffs.
The Red Wings currently have the upper hand this season, though, with two victories – both shutouts – in three games, with one to go, April 25 at Detroit.
“We just have to keep working, throwing pucks at the net,” Trotz said. “We have to keep doing the things that we generally need to do. There’s no magic wand I can wave over them they’re going to score.”