TORONTO - The Nashville Predators are not playing the brand of hockey the organization is known for and, as a result, continue to slip in the standings.
Typically one of the more defensively sound teams in the NHL, Nashville blew two three-goal leads against the Toronto Maple Leafs, eventually falling 5-4 on Tuesday night.
After beginning the season with at least a point through eight games, the Predators have now failed to earn a regulation win in their past eight contests, falling all the way to the Central Division basement.
Nashville has surrendered an average of almost four goals per game during the skid, while scoring less than two per contest.
The lack of offence certainly isn't lost on coach Barry Trotz, but it was the loose defence corps that had him most miffed after the loss to Toronto.
"Some of our top guys are not playing that well and some of our best defensive guys aren't playing that well defensively and I thought as a group, our defence, that was the worst I've seen them play all year," he said.
A number of Nashville's go-to players on the attack have definitely struggled to find the net. Defenceman Shea Weber has just two goals this year and is minus-7; Martin Erat, a three-time 20-goal scorer, hadn't scored in eight games this year until finding the mark against Toronto and former Leaf Steve Sullivan has one goal in 13 games after starting the season with four in his first three outings.
The Preds entered the game on the heels of consecutive shootout wins, but couldn't build on the momentum. Things don't get any easier as the club still has three road games left in a stretch that sees it play nine of 10 away from home.
"During that skid we were squeezing our sticks a little tight, but we managed to win the last two games so there are no excuses," said Weber, the team's captain. "We should have been playing with more confidence and a smarter (game)."
One area where Weber wasn't placing blame was with goalies Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback, even though Rinne's last regulation win came way back on Oct. 23, while Lindback's was the next night.
"I think (Rinne) and (Lindback) have been doing a great job," Weber said. "We need to limit the number of second opportunities. They're going to make the first save, we just need to limit second chances."