It took less than a minute for the Tampa Bay Lightning to reduce the Nashville Predators’ comfortable three-goal led Sunday to a squirm-in-your-seat one-goal advantage.
When the Lightning scored twice in 57 seconds of the third period it seemed that anything was possible for the remaining four minutes. The truth was that it was the same old thing for the Predators.
“I wasn’t panicking,” coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we were going to be fine. I didn’t call a timeout and I could have. I was feeling uneasy, but I wasn’t panicking just because I felt we’d get through it. Luckily we did.
“…The one-goal games, we’re used to them.”
Indeed they are.
Nashville enters Thursday’s contest against the St. Louis Blues (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena) as the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss (5-0-3). That doesn’t mean that players, coaches and some fans haven’t lost sleep due tension related to tight contests.
Each of the Predators’ last seven games was decided by a single goal. The only one this season that wasn’t was the opening-night 4-1 victory over Anaheim.
“We’re looking at wins and losses,” forward Steve Sullivan said. “How we get it done is irrelevant. We look at trying to get the victory and then trying to put it aside and moving on to the next one.
“To be realistic, the Tampa game should not have been a one-goal game. Those stats sometimes are a little misleading.”
The rundown on the Predators’ run of one-goal games:
• Oct. 13: Nashville 3, Chicago 2 – Predators play from behind for more than two-thirds of the game but get two third-period goals, the last by Joel Ward with 27 seconds to go.
• Oct. 14: Nashville 4, St. Louis 3 – Predators lead by two after each of the first two periods, allow the only third-period goal.
• Oct. 16: Washington 3, Nashville 2 (OT) – Predators keep Capitals off the board until the third period, can’t score after the second.
• Oct. 19: Calgary 1, Nashville 0 (OT) – Miikka Kiprusoff stymies Predators; fortunate bounce in overtime dooms them.
• Oct. 21: Pittsburgh 4, Nashville 3 (OT) – Predators lead three different times but never by more than one goal.
• Oct. 23: Nashville 1, Dallas 0 – Cal O’Reilly’s goal 42 seconds into the contest stands up as Pekka Rinne makes 30 saves.
• Oct. 24: Nashville 4, Tampa Bay 3 – Predators go up 4-1 with 5:50 to play, fewer than two minutes later the lead is one goal.
“A lot of it we’ve done to ourselves,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “We’ve played great defense and then we’ve had a little bit of a letdown. But a win’s a win, and you have to find a way to win those one-goal games.”
At the conclusion of play Monday, the Predators’ four wins in one-goal games tied them with four others for the most in the NHL. Their three losses were tied with Phoenix for the most in the league.
Last season, Nashville’s 28 victories and .651 winning percentage in one-goal games were both second overall to the Coyotes.
“I think that’s just the way we’re built,” Trotz said. “We’re not going to run away with too many games. At the same time, were going to be in a lot more games than we aren’t. … The one-goal games, I think it just prepares you. It makes you stay intense and makes you stay focused. We don’t have any panic.
“We’re just used to being in one-goal games.”
Before he said all of that, he did make one other observation, though.
“It’s OK to win by more than one.”
• Defenseman Ryan Suter (lower body), center Marcel Goc (shoulder) and center Matthew Lombardi (concussion) all remain sidelined.
According to Trotz, Suter is out through at least the weekend; Goc will miss another 10 days to two weeks; Lomardi is out indefinitely.
Goc skated on his own Wednesday but still lacks strength and power in the joint. Suter is likely to start skating next week.
Trotz noted, though, that the team’s fast start is allowing for more patience with injured players, particularly Suter.
“If we were 0-5-3 it might be a totally different story,” Trotz said. “I’d be personally wrapping up his leg.”