Even Shea Weber had to ask.
“When’s the last time we allowed five goals in a game?” the Nashville Predators captain queried incredulously.
The answer was Dec. 23, when they gave up six to the Dallas Stars.
Between then and Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville had played 30 games during which it allowed an average of 2.2 goals. That stretch included 17 home games, 12 of which the Predators won and only two of which did not result in at least a point in the standings.
This one was nothing like any of those. Nashville came from behind to tie three times but never led and ultimately was done in when it allowed two goals in the first three minutes of the final period.
“We’re a team that prides itself on defense,” Weber said. “There was none of it [Tuesday] night. … Five goals.”
The lapse was even more confounding given that it happened against the Kings, who are next-to-last in the NHL in goals per game at 2.17. They recently endured a stretch in which they scored just once or not at all nine times over 14 games.
Sure, Los Angeles has been better of late. This was the fifth time in its last seven it scored at least four but it had been nearly two full months since it got five in a game.
In that sense, something had to give. It was the Predators.
“[The Kings] did a great job,” right wing Patric Hornqvist said. “They defended really good and even in the neutral zone they took away our speed and all that.
“So they played really good defensively, and we really have to clean up defensively. We can’t let five goals in in a game. We’re not going to win any games like that.”
None of Nashville’s issues on defense were unique within the game. It is just that they all happened within the 60 minutes that comprised this single contest.
There were instances when the Predators allowed too much time and space in their defensive end, such as was the case when Drew Doughty put the Kings up 3-2 in the second.
There were times when Nashville failed to clear the puck from its own end. That’s what happened when Matt Greene made it 4-3 Los Angeles 1:15 into the final period.
There was the instance when the Predators did not react well after one of their own goals. The first of Honrqvist’s two in this contest forged a tie, 1-1, which lasted all of eight seconds.
“That was one of our more offensive games and certainly fun to play,” forward Justin Williams, who scored Los Angeles’ first two goals, said. “Everyone was into it right from the start. Guys were intense and we get a big win. We wanted to make [Pekka] Rinne work.”
What eventually happened was that Rinne, the Nashville netminder and often a great equalizer, had his work night cut short. He made 19 saves on 24 shots before he was pulled in favor of Anders Lindback.
Generally speaking, Rinne was much more ordinary than usual. In fact, he kicked in the Kings’ first goal after a shot from the right wing corner ended up in the crease behind him.
“To me, it just wasn’t Pekks’ night,” coach Barry Trotz said. “And we weren’t helping him a whole lot. You have to help him in the crease area you have to clear pucks, you have to have your man a little firmer than we did.
“Four is my limit usually with Pekks. We still had lots of game to play, so I gave him one more.”
Just one more thing that was unusual about this contest.