The Nashville Predators look to continue capitalizing on fast starts in order to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Monday night when they visit the reigning Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks.
The Predators (20-18-2) have totaled six first-period goals their last two games, doubling their output from the previous 11 contests in which they went 4-7-0.
They used two first-period goals to get a 4-2 win over the Ducks (21-17-6) on Dec. 8 after failing to get on the scoreboard until the third period in a 3-1 loss at Anaheim on Oct. 17 - their fifth consecutive defeat at the Honda Center.
Nashville scored three times in the opening period Saturday to beat Minnesota 4-1. The quick outburst has Nashville in position to win four consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 24-March 3.
"We have to come out strong," Predators right wing J.P. Dumont said. "We are playing with confidence and that is huge for us. I don't know why it is happening, but I'm glad it is. We are a different team, a tougher team, when we have the early lead.
"We are hitting the net a lot more and getting a lot of traffic. Pucks are finding their way into the net now. We have to be prepared every single game to come out with points."
Dumont has been a big factor in those fast starts, netting two goals and assisting on two more in the first periods of the last two games to give him a career-high four-game goal streak. His 14 goals tie him with Jason Arnott for the team lead, and are only seven fewer than he had all of last season.
Dumont, though, has failed to get a point in two games against the Ducks this season.
Nashville is also getting strong play from goaltender Dan Ellis, who made 29 stops against the Wild to win his third consecutive start. He has a 1.00 goals-against average in winning Nashville's last three games.
Ellis, who has never faced Anaheim and was signed as a free agent in the offseason after starting only one NHL game in 2003-04 with Dallas, has been a surprise for the Preds, going 10-4-0 with a 2.25 GAA in 18 games - 13 starts. He might continue seeing increased playing time with Chris Mason (10-14-2, 3.09 GAA) struggling at times.
"I feel real good with the way things are going right now," Ellis said. "The whole team is playing some of the best hockey we have played all season. It is carrying over from game to game."
The Ducks are also finding the net early, getting three of their four goals in the first period over the last two games. However, they are not getting the same results. They scored twice in the first and held on for a 2-1 win over Chicago on Friday before squandering a pair of one-goal leads and losing 3-2 in a shootout at Phoenix the following night.
Ryan Getzlaf, who opened the scoring Saturday, is one game shy of matching his career-high eight-game points streak from Nov. 7-25. He has totaled three goals and five assists over the last seven games to give him a team-high 44 points.
The 22-year-old center has three goals and six assists in eight games against Nashville.