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First goal imperative for Preds

Nashville’s 7-4 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night is a good reminder that the Predators are 3-14-1 when their opponent scores the game’s first goal. Two of those three wins came in the last week when the Predators went three-for-four on their recently concluded four-game homestand.

While Nashville has traditionally been a defense-first minded team, the offense, as of late, has been there. In the last 11 games, the Predators have scored 40 goals, including two four-goal games that were losing efforts against Vancouver and Phoenix, and two three-goal games that also ended in losses for Nashville against Calgary and Columbus.

A season ago, three goals scored by Nashville nearly guaranteed a win. The Predators boasted a 40-7-4 record when they put up three or more goals on the scoreboard.

This season, the Predators have scored three or more goals 13 times, but nine of those games have come in the month of March and four have been losses.

Predators center Nick Spaling points to the fact that the ship will right itself if the team can just get back to basics.

“I think our game has always been defense,” Spaling explained. “We need to play together defensively. I think we need to stay strong defensively. We just need to focus on that first, and then make sure the goals still come.”

Forward Mike Fisher agreed.

“Defensively, we haven’t been good,” Fisher said. “We’ve been giving up too many easy goals and not helping Pekka [Rinne] at all. There are some positives. We are finding ways to win. We aren’t quitting when we are down by a few, but we need to be better defensively.”

Predators’ head coach Barry Trotz suggests that the team gets away from its game after giving up the contest’s first goal – something it has done 18 times this season.

“Lately, we’re giving up a little more.  We’re a lot younger.  On the road, it’s a lot more difficult if you’re chasing to get back into games.  There’s a lot more holes in your game when you’re chasing,” he said.

It is hard to question the importance of scoring the game’s first goal when examining the Predators record in those occasions. Nashville is the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose in regulation when picking up the first goal of the game with an 11-0-5 record.

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