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Preds show character, almost climb out of four-goal hole

When the puck dropped at 7:07pm Central, Devan Dubnyk became the fifth goalie to play for the Nashville Predators this season. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare much better than the others.

“He’s been in the league a long time and I’ve seen a lot better games from him,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’ll get better. It was his first game. Plus, we gave him very little support early.”

In front of 17,113 inside Bridgestone Arena, the Colorado Avalanche held off a last-period push by the Preds to win 5-4.

“If you get four goals in this league you’ve got to get points,” Trotz said. “We got the four goals but didn’t get any points.”

Down 5-1 in the third period, Nashville pushed back and found the will to get back in it. For a team that has trouble scoring, potting three goals in a single period was incredible. More incredible? The effort and fight the team showed when they easily could have packed it in.

“We owed it to our fans,” Ryan Ellis said. “They stuck in there with us. We didn’t play too well in the first. I think in the second and the third we really picked it up and out-chanced and out-shot them but, obviously, it wasn’t the outcome we wanted.”

Early in the contest, Mattias Ekholm appeared to have his stick held and the Avs took advantage of the non-call. After a flurry of activity in front of the Predator net, Colorado defenseman Nick Holden bagged his third of the year to open the scoring.

Midway through the first, Jan Hejda unleashed a rocket through traffic from the blueline to put the Avs up 2-0.

Moments later, the visitors continued their onslaught. Gabriel Landeskog showed the sold out crowd why he’s considered one of the best players in the National Hockey League when he unleashed a one-timer that whizzed past Dubnyk, making it 3-0.

The Predators actually generated plenty of chances in the opening frame but couldn’t find the back of the net, retiring to the locker room down three goals. In the second, however, Nashville came out with reckless abandon. So much so that it took Colorado nearly seven minutes to get a shot on goal.

“We were not ready in the first,” Patric Hornqvist said. “To come from behind 3-0? It’s hard to come back after that but we stayed together and actually played a really good 40 minute game [afterward].”

In the closing minutes of the second, the Predators were the benefactors of a 5-on-3 power play. Hornqvist almost immediately bagged his 10th of the year to put his team on the board and give them some life.

“A very questionable 5-on-3 changed the momentum of the game,” Colorado forward Paul Statsny said. “They move their defensemen a lot. We got a little confused in our own zone and they got in front of the net. Goalies can’t stop everything.”

The goal, the 94th of his career, moved Hornqvist into seventh place on the all-time Predators franchise goal scoring list passing JP Dumont, Greg Johnson and Scott Hartnell.

Nashville thought that had pulled within a goal when Shea Weber appeared to have scored with a blast from the point as the horn sounded. After review though, the clock had registered “0.0” before the puck crossed the line and Colorado kept their lead in tact.

Early in the third, the Avs regained the three goal lead when Holden scored his second of the game.

Exactly four minutes later, Matt Duchene potted his 17th of the season to give his club a four-goal lead and sent a handful of fans to the exits.

The Preds tried to chip away at the seemingly insurmountable lead with a Craig Smith tally midway through the stanza. His team-leading 15th of the year made the score 5-2, Avs.

Nashville would make things interesting when Ellis connected with 12:45 gone in the third.

Then, all of a sudden, the building started to believe when Roman Josi found the back of the net with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.

It was too little, too late but the heart that the Predators displayed has to be applauded.

“The one thing that’s undeniable is that the character of our group is great,” Trotz said. “We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there’s a lot of will on our team. There’s a lot of fight.”

“They scored quickly in the third but, after that, we should a lot of character,” Josi said. “We have to play like that the whole game. It can’t happen that we start like that and get down 3-0.”

Trotz and his squad will try to get back on the winning side when the Dallas Stars come to town on Monday.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:40 remaining in regulation):
1. Nick Holden (COL)
2. Paul Stastny (COL)
3. Matt Duchene (COL)

1. Nick Holden (COL)
2. Paul Stastny (COL)
3. Nathan MacKinnon (COL)