The rest of the locker room was empty, but Pekka Rinne remained seated at his stall. With his skates on.
Presumably, the Nashville Predators goalie was contemplating kicking himself, literally. He had done so figuratively ever since he allowed an unlikely goal 2:57 into the third period.
That one, on a seemingly harmless shot from the left boards by Calgary’s Matt Stajan, was the first of two times in the third period the Predators lost the lead Tuesday. Eventually they fell 3-2 in shootout — their third straight defeat overall and the third time in their last four losses they had the lead in the third period.
“There’s no room for mistakes and I let in a bad goal — the first one,” Rinne said. “It gave them a little bit of momentum and they tied the game. Then, obviously, the shootout.
“There’s no excuses. Just a bad goal.”
In their first game back from the All-Star break, not to mention their first home game since Jan. 15, the Predators got on the board early — Martin Erat scored 7:43 into the contest — and maintained the advantage until Rinne’s lapse.
Fewer than three minutes later they went ahead again, this time on a power-play goal by Patric Hornqvist, only to lose the advantage — again. Calgary’s Corey Sarich forced overtime when he got free in the Nashville end and converted with 10:56 left in regulation. It was just the defensemen’s second goal of the season.
“My guy had his back to completely to me,” Sarich said. “He was watching what was going on in the corner. … I was just trying to get the puck on the net and it happened to be in a bit of quiet zone there.”
The Flames’ first skater, Rene Bourque, was the only player for either side who converted in the shootout.
“It happened in the last game at Vancouver [last Wednesday] and it happened [Tuesday] at home,” Erat said. “We just have to learn to play with the lead. … We’re just letting in bad goals, little mistakes and it’s just ending up in our net all the time.”
The Predators were up 1-0 early in the third at Vancouver yet lost 2-1. On Jan. 16 at Chicago, they allowed four unanswered goals after having led 3-1 in the third.
In the last seven games (3-3-1) they have allowed a total of 18 goals, two-thirds of them in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
“We’ve got to be a little bit better in that area, there’s no question,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I look at all the goals, it’s more individual [breakdowns] than it is collective stuff.
“… We had the two points and then had a coverage breakdown. A forward allowed [Sarich] to jump down into the play there and they got it tied up.”
Nashville is now 20-1-4 when leading after two periods. Only San Jose (18-3-3) and Atlanta (15-1-5) have lost more often under such circumstances.
That’s seven points the Predators have allowed to slip away in those games. It’s also one more loss when leading after two than they had in all of 2009-10 (27-4-0), when they made the playoffs as the Western Conference’s seventh seed.
“At least we got one point [Tuesday] night,” captain Shea Weber said. “But there comes a point where we have to figure out how to lock things down. There’s 31 games left and if we’re not going to find a way to get two points, we’re not going to be in the playoffs.”
• Nashville was called for five penalties in the contest. Three were against Nick Spaling and one was against Jerred Smithson. Those lead all Predators’ forwards in shorthanded ice time per game.
“These are the guys that kill the penalties and they were the ones [committing] them,” Trotz said. “Their four penalties against, that’s not a good night for them.”
The Flames were 0-5 on the power play.
• David Legwand was the final skater and had the opportunity to extend the shootout with a goal. Prepped by a scouting report, he got exactly what he expected from Calgary goalie Miika Kiprusoff but missed the net with his shot.
“He always poke-checks one guy and, obviously, he didn’t poke check the first two so I kind of figured it was coming,” Legwand said. “I had him, I just missed the net there. You have to execute things like that when you have him down and out.”
Legwand is 0-2 in shootouts for the season and 5-15 for his career.
• Calgary is the only team Nashville has played more than once but has yet to beat this season. The Predators are 0-1-2 against the Flames.