The Thrashers matched their exhibition season goal total Wednesday but remained winless after a 4-3 loss to Nashville at Philips Arena. After scoring just three goals in three games, the Thrashers surrendered a third-period goal to drop to 0-4 in the preseason.
“I truly believe that defensively we will be fine,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “I can teach that. We have good people who can play. But scoring goals was an obvious problem and tonight we looked better. We are looking at how our people play and how they learn our system. We want to win every game but it hasn’t happened. We’ve been in them.”
The Thrashers have allowed the first goal in each exhibition game and have been outscored 12-6. They lost to Nashville 2-1 on Monday.
Nashville broke the tie when David Legwand knocked in a loose puck in front of the Thrashers goal for the game-winner at the 8:12 mark. Thrashers goaltender Chris Mason, who stopped 26 shots, said the goal was another instance of his trouble adjusting to traffic in front of the net.
“I had trouble with the traffic tonight,” Mason said. “I had trouble, even with the ones I saved. With traffic I didn’t have as much control as I would have liked. That’s the hardest thing that I have when you first come back is dealing with that. …
“It hit something in front and went to their guy. It took me an extra split second to find it and I was reaching instead of being right there. Instead of hitting me in the body I had to reach for it and it hit my arm and went in.”
Nashville opened the scoring with the first of two goals by Martin Erat, a tally at the 10:12 mark of the first period. The Thrashers answered on a power-play goal by Nigel Dawes with 19 seconds left in the period. Dawes knocked in a rebound of a Johnny Oduya shot from the point. The Thrashers converted on their lone power-play opportunity, the only one two preseason games against Nashville.
The Predators took a 3-1 lead with two power-play goals of their own in the second period as Ryan Suter and Erat converted man-advantages.
“Our attention is to be the most disciplined team in hockey,” Ramsay said. “We had one power-play opportunity in the last two games. While [Nashville] is disciplined, I think we are as well. We fully expect to get more power plays, to score on our power play like we did and not to take so many. The referees are going to understand that our team is not allowed to hook, hold, clutch and grab and we expect that we don’t do that and our discipline will really pay off.”
The Thrashers tied the game at 3-3 with a second-period goals by Freddy Meyer and Ben Eager 2:52 apart. Meyer blasted a shot from the point and Eager converted a great individual effort from Zach Bogosian. The defenseman took control of the puck, skated nearly the length of the ice and slid a perfect pass to Eager, who beat Nashville goaltender Anders Lindback.
“It was a great play,” Eager said. “Bogo had his head up the whole time and used his speed to the outside. I just went to the net and he found me there. Pretty much an open net. We’ll take those.”
It was Eager’s second goal of the preseason. While he was encouraged by the Thrashers’ comeback, he still sees work to be done.
“It’s never fun to get behind, but we responded well and battled back to tie it up,” Eager said. “A bit of a sloppy goal at the end and it cost us a game. We have to tighten up a few things. We can’t be losing games in the third period like that.”
The Thrashers insist that the winless start of the exhibition season is not cause for alarm. The most important thing is learning a new system and new teammates.
“I hate even saying this, but right now the end result isn’t the big thing,” Mason said. “We are getting to know each other and learning as we go and we have shown some improvement in some areas and some areas we have to keep working on.
“If you ask anybody we’d rather be 4-0 but when these games are done they don’t count for anything. As long as we are learning things right now that’s the important thing. We want to win, you set out every game to win, but if we are learning from the coaches and all the new systems that’s what’s important. If we can take lessons out of these losses now, hopefully it nullifies it in the regular season.”