Golden opportunity wasted by Nashville Predators in Game 2, and that'll be tough to take | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean

RALEIGH, N.C. – Alex Nedeljkovic had stopped everything, but how bout without his stick?

With about 90 seconds remaining in Game 2, the Nashville Predators’ net was empty and, suddenly, so was the Carolina Hurricanes goalie’s hand. He'd lost his stick. But the Predators – with an extra attacker once again – were sloppy and lost the puck near the blue line, allowing Nedeljkovic time to retrieve it.

So it was all night, it seemed, at PNC Arena, a noisy place that had long since grown very tense.

Then, seconds later, Carolina’s one-goal lead became two and then three.

Sound the sirens.

The Predators’ playoff hopes are S.O.S., and worst of all, it's by their own doing. Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat wasn’t defined by what the Hurricanes did as much as what the Preds didn't do. Riddled by penalties, a talented foe was vulnerable at home, and the visitors were unable to capitalize. They couldn’t turn seven power plays into a single goal.

In doing so, the Preds wasted a priceless opportunity – one they might not get again – to make this a series.

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Sure, it’s not over. These Preds, if nothing else, have shown a flair for the dramatic rally when least expected. But the idea of winning four of the next five — even with three of them in Nashville — seems far-fetched after being shut out on a night in which your opponent had a player in the penalty box for nearly one-third of the game.

“It’s frustrating because we had so many chances on the power play,” captain Roman Josi said. “I thought we played really well 5-on-5. Our power play is not getting the job done right now. If you don’t score, at least you’ve got to create some momentum. They probably had more (scoring) chances on our power play than we did.”

Problems on the power play go back years with this franchise, which is part of the reason why this type of defeat — shoulda, woulda, coulda all over it — has the potential to haunt the Preds for a while.

They let one get away, and they had to know it.

Frustration was palpable. Sticks slammed on the ice during the third period. Afterward, the typically unflappable John Hynes briefly grew flustered over a couple of fair questions about the defeat in the postgame press conference.

“The last two questions, like, did we watch the same game?” Hynes said. "I think when you look at the hockey game, we played a pretty good game. I thought their goaltender made some really good saves. We had good looks. … We’re a better team than we were the first night. We obviously know the power play has got to be better, but I think there’s a lot of positives going out of this game.”

Hynes might disagree, I suppose, but this was no masterpiece. It was an ugly, disjointed game. It was dominated by whistles and overly reliant on special units, not allowing either side to develop much of a rhythm.

The Preds were better, yes, and the Canes were worse. Though to be fair, it’s hard to be at your best when you have one less player on the ice than your opponent does, a disadvantage it seemed the Canes were having to overcome constantly.

And you know what? They overcame it. They won a game in which they weren’t at their best and often had a hand tied behind their back. That's all that counts.

Might be easier to take for the Preds if the Canes had just blown them off the ice like so many were expecting. That hasn’t been the case. The Preds entered the third period of both games in Raleigh with a legit chance to win. Prior to this series, they’d surely have taken that.

But they couldn’t score a goal in either of those third periods. That's all that counts.

Through two playoff games, the Preds have shown they can be competitive with a Stanley Cup contender. But without the killer instinct, none of the other stuff matters. No moral victories at this point. 

All that'll get you is a 2-0 deficit heading back home and a pressure-packed Game 3 on Friday night in Smashville.

Reach Gentry Estes at and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.