It was obvious early in the contest that Toronto wasn’t taking the Predators seriously after they shut them out in Nashville on Oct. 10 with a 4-0 victory. The Predators hadn’t forgotten that embarrassing defeat in front of their home crowd, and were determined to return the favor against the Maple Leafs.
Toronto disrespected Nashville, as they expected an easy cake walk win and they paid the price for their lackluster performance. The Maple Leafs forgot everything that made them successful against the Predators a month ago, as their special teams were far from impressive in the rematch. In their first meeting, Toronto was perfect on the penalty-kill, as they denied Nashville from scoring on the power-play three times. The Maple Leafs also scored twice on the power-play in four opportunities with the man-advantage.
Unfortunately for Toronto, the script was practically reversed when the Predators came to town, as Nashville scored twice in four opportunities on the power-play, and also killed off the two penalties they took in the contest.
Jonathan Bernier, who was in net for both games against the Predators, struggled in his second attempt to defeat them this season, despite shutting them out in the first game. Although Bernier was as solid as a wall in their first meeting, he had a pair of shaky moments, resulting in a questionable goal that ultimately had a major impact in the contest. A harmless looking shot from the corner by Craig Smith hit Bernier in the glove and flew straight up in the air only to land behind the goaltender in the net. It was the type of shot Bernier normally saves 10 times out of 10, but for whatever reason, tricked him on this night. It was the fourth goal by the Predators in the game, and considering the Maple Leafs scored moments later to cut the lead to 4-2, it’s easy to wonder how the game could have changed if Bernier was able prevent that puck from going into the net.
Perhaps the Maple Leafs were guilty of looking ahead to their next opponent, the Washington Capitals, and felt they’d be able to coast to a victory against Nashville. The game against the Capitals will see two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference face off for the first time this season, and it’s easy to understand why it’d be on the minds of most Toronto players.
Unfortunately, good teams don’t take nights off, and that’s exactly what the Maple Leafs did against the Predators. If Toronto stands any chance of rebounding against Washington, they’ll need to come out with a much better effort against the Capitals, or risk being embarrassed in consecutive games at home.