When Nashville stunned Toronto with three straight third period goals en route to a 4-2 victory, Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson wasn't surprised that the Predators were stingy beyond belief after they pulled ahead.
Cody Franson knows all about the suffocating Nashville Predators.
After all, it was with Nashville that he got his NHL start. So when the Predators stunned Toronto with three straight third period goals en route to a 4-2 victory, the Maple Leafs defenceman wasn't surprised that they were stingy beyond belief after they pulled ahead.
"They are a good team and there's no way around that," Franson said. "They have a full lineup of guys that are dedicated to what they believe in and their system. They work hard every night and they make you work for what they give you. If you check the turnovers, probably 98 per cent of their games they are very low. They don't take a lot of chances and if they get a goal they really tighten up."
Speaking of turnovers, the Maple Leafs lead the NHL in giveaways and Thursday night was another disaster. Toronto turned the puck over 21 times which is 10 more than their 11.4 per game average.
Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said his team simply didn't play well enough to deserve a victory.
"We didn't do enough of the little things against a team that always comes at you hard and plays a disciplined game," he said. "We just weren't good enough. They don't do a whole lot of flashy stuff; they are disciplined in sticking to their system and they want to wear you down. They chip pucks in and they are physical. They did that tonight."
Franson said the biggest difference in the game was Nashville's ability to score with the man advantage.
"Our power play didn't score and theirs did," Franson said. "It's not like our power play wasn't generating anything; we just couldn't put it in the back of the net. They play a tight defensive game and it's tough to generate chances against a team that plays that tight. Hats off to them; they played hard tonight."
Nashville finished the game going two-for-seven with the man advantage while the Maple Leafs were blanked on five extra-man attempts.
Flat for last 40
Maple Leafs coach randy Carlyle felt his team had a good first 20 minutes, but then, "We were flat after the first period. We didn't seem to have any energy or enthusiasm. It seems like once we got through the first period we got a couple of power plays where we worked the puck deep and had lots of chances, but we weren't rewarded. The game turned and we couldn't get it back."
Off night for Bernier
Having started six of the Maple Leafs past nine games, it seems more and more as though the club has decided Jonathan Bernier is the team's No. 1 goalie this season. That said, it was not his best effort of the season. Bernier allowed four goals on 28 shots including one that he mishandled with his team trailing by two in the third period. What seemed like a catchable high shot hit his trapper, flew high into the air and dropped in behind him.
"I've got to make sure I am focused all game," Bernier said. "Those kind of goals will happen in my career and I just have to bounce back."
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Bernier got the start against Nashville. He recorded a 4-0 shutout when the Maple Leafs and Predators hooked up Oct. 10 in Nashville.
What's up with Kessel?
Even though he scored two goals Tuesday night against the Islanders, right-winger Phil Kessel has had his ice time reduced in the past three games. Asked about a potential wrist injury Tuesday night, he refused to talk about it. Kessel played just 15:27 against Nashville and it is the third straight game he has played fewer than 16 minutes.
If Nazek Kadri was in the coach's bad books after taking a three-game suspension for running Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, he didn't do himself any favors when he took a holding penalty in the offensive zone on his first shift back.
With his team down by a field goal, Kadri scored his sixth goal of the season on a wrist shot that fooled Predators goalie Marek Mazenac. Overall, it was not Kadri's best game of the year on a night when he had a great opportunity to make a statement in terms of earning the No. 1 centre's job.
Holland makes a case to stay
Newcomer Peter Holland scored his second goal of the season and first as a Maple Leaf at 5:48 of the first period. The shift centre cruised in on the left wing and even though he is a left shot, he defied the odds by snapping a low shot in to the far side of the net on a wicked angle. Late in the game with the Leafs using six skaters in an attempt to force overtime, Holland took a hard shot that beat Mazanec, but hit iron.
"I think it might have hit the cross bar and then hit the post," Holland said. "I saw him down with the far side open and I tried to get it over there."
The Maple Leafs will have to make a decision on Holland when injured centre Tyler Bozak returns, possibly as early as Saturday when Toronto hosts the Washington Capitals.
"How can it not be on your mind, really," Holland said. "Obviously there are guys coming back so I'm just trying to focus on my game and help this team win and I'm having a good time while I'm at it."
Seth Jones may have been disappointed to go fourth in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft after being ranked No. 1 for most of the year, but the Predators are sure happy he slipped. Jones has been averaging nearly 24 minute ice time per game and Thursday night scored his third goal of the season on a slap shot from the point with Toronto's Mason Raymond serving a double minor for high-sticking. Jones is now being considered for the American Olympic team at just 19 years old.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.