Nashville Predators near elimination with offensive drought
ANAHEIM. Calif. – Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi sounded shocked that his team couldn’t muster more goals in their Game 5 loss.
After the 5-2 defeat, a subdued Josi kept pointing out his team had multiple opportunities to score against the Anaheim Ducks defense but just couldn’t bury them.
“We’re playing well. I thought today we had a lot of chances. (Frederik Andersen) made some big saves. We just have to find a way to score,” Josi said. “We played a pretty good game tonight and had a lot of chances in the first and second periods and they get a bounce and goes in our net and changed the game.”
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Josi was referring to David Perron’s goal at the 14:35 mark that hit off Josi’s shin pad and bounced past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. These are the breaks a team needs to get to win in the playoffs – especially a group that’s struggling to score like the Predators.
But since Andersen entered this series in goal for the Ducks in Game 3, Nashville’s offense has been stifled. They haven’t gotten breaks and they haven’t really beaten Andersen cleanly either. The Predators have mustered three goals in that stretch and were shut out in Game 3.
“I don’t think they were playing to the level they usually play the first couple of games,” said center Ryan Johansen who scored his first goal of the playoffs in Game 5. “(Andersen’s) a good goalie and you need to keep finding ways to get opportunities. I thought we did a better job tonight but can still do better. We’ll look at a few things and try to get by him a couple more times the next game.”
A lot of the offensive blame has been placed on second-line center Mike Ribeiro this series. He has just one assist and is a minus-3 and has been a non-factor, especially since linemate Craig Smith went down with a lower body injury in Game 3.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette was asked about Ribeiro’s lack of production and pointed out how the entire team has struggled of late.
“It’s tight defensively for everybody,” Laviolette said. “Tonight I thought we had the most looks and the most chances to get off offensively. He’s a part of that but there’s not a lot of room out there.”
It’s been a mix of scoring issues and lack of discipline from their offensive stars that have doomed the Predators.
Sniper James Neal, who has been held off the scoresheet since the first minute of Game 1, took interference and elbowing penalties this game. A late slash by Ribeiro at the 16:26 mark led to a Cam Fowler goal that put the Ducks up 4-2 at the 16:37 mark.
Johansen has just two points in the five games. Filip Forsberg has one goal, and Predators puck-moving blueliners Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis have one point each. Only captain Shea Weber (three points), forward Colin Wilson (four points) and Josi (three points) have made constant and meaningful offensive contributions.
“You’re not going to keep those guys off the scoresheet all the time but especially the last few games our team defense has been really strong and also our goaltending,” Fowler said.
There was a lot of talk from both teams after the game about how the Predators will need to draw on their raucous home crowd in Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Anaheim. Will they give Nashville enough of a boost to solve Anaheim’s defense? It didn’t help in Games 3 and 4, both Nashville losses.
The Ducks were the best defensive team in the regular season, allowing 2.29 goals per-game. The group was off the first two games of the playoffs where they allowed six goals. After the adjusted they clamped down, which will make Monday’s Game 6 a tough task for the Preds.
“I think you look at any team’s that’s won the Cup. It’s never been smooth sailing through the playoffs. Adversity’s going to hit and our backs are against the wall,” Johansen said. “One thing in our favor is we’re going home to a city that’s going to be buzzing and trying to help us and be there with us and support us. It’s our job to throw on the jersey at home and try to bring it back here to Anaheim.”
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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper