The Golden Knights could have been daydreaming about sandy beaches Wednesday or checking the clock as they counted down the minutes until their break.
Instead, they put in a full shift and couldn’t be faulted at all for their effort.
It just wasn’t enough against Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.
The Knights fired 48 shots on goal, but will limp into the All-Star break on the heels of a 2-1 loss to the Predators in front of an announced crowd of 18,477 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights, who are off until Feb. 1 when they play at Carolina, lost their second straight in regulation at home for the first time this season and have dropped four of their past six games.
“We really liked the way we played tonight,” Knights assistant coach Mike Kelly said. “I thought we played pretty hard lines one through four, the six defensemen and our goaltender. I thought we played pretty well. It doesn’t always guarantee a win. That’s the tough part about it, but there’s a lot to be encouraged about heading into the break, I think.”
Saros won for the third time in three games against the Knights, and his 47 saves were a career high. He has stopped 114 of 116 shots in those three appearances.
Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino scored second-period goals 3:01 apart for the Predators, who picked up their 30th victory and moved into a tie for first place in the Central Division entering the All-Star break.
Max Pacioretty had the lone goal for the Knights in the first period.
“There’s games you feel you deserve to win, games you feel you probably deserved to lose and got lucky,” Pacioretty said. “Right now, we’re probably not at our best, but I believe we’re not far off. Couple breakdowns here and there are the difference right now, but we’ve seen what this team is capable of doing when we play with confidence.”
Johansen, in his first game back after he served a two-game suspension for high-sticking, tied the score 1-1 less than a minute into the second period.
Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (25 saves) made a shoulder save on Roman Josi, but Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb cleared the puck out of the crease and it deflected in off Johansen.
The Predators went ahead 2-1 at 3:53 of the second when Austin Watson freed the puck at the side of the net and sent a pass to Bonino, who broke free from Deryk Engelland in the slot before netting his 14th goal.
Saros’ biggest stop came with 3:24 left in the second when he slid across his crease to turn away William Karlsson on a 2-on-0 with Paul Stastny.
“I think we had almost 50 shots,” Knights winger Ryan Reaves said. “The goalie played really well. They used their speed against us. I think it could’ve gone either way but we didn’t bury opportunities. Just a little too sloppy in some spots.”
Saros earned the start for Nashville on the strength of his 2-0 record, 0.50 goals-against average, .985 save percentage and one shutout lifetime against the Knights and was under pressure from the opening faceoff.
The Knights fired 18 shots on goal in the first period and missed the net on a handful of other scoring chances.
Pacioretty tallied his 15th goal at 8:03 of the first after good work down low by Stastny and a pretty pass across the slot by Alex Tuch.
“There’s a lot of positives out of the game we can take,” Knights center Cody Eakin said. “We didn’t get there on the scoreboard, but I thought we played a pretty good game. Worked hard right until the very end. These types of games happen sometimes.”
1 Fish hook. Nashville’s P.K. Subban and Knights center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare were involved in an odd incident late in the second period. Subban appeared to claim that Bellemare bit him during the scrum. TV cameras caught Bellemare explaining that Subban’s fingers were caught in his mouth while he had Bellemare in a headlock. In the end, Subban received an extra two-minute penalty.
2 Banner battle. The Predators mocked the Golden Knights’ pregame show when the teams met on Oct. 30 in Nashville. The Knights responded Wednesday with a video that went hard at Nashville’s “2017-18 regular season Western Conference champions” banner.
3 Still struggling. The Knights’ power play finished 0-for-5 against the Predators and continues to be an issue heading into the All-Star break. Since Dec. 27, they are 3-for-41 with the man advantage.
David Schoen Review-Journal