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Craig leads Predators past Ducks 4-2

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Though Craig Smith wasn't born when Lionel Richie came out with the hit single "All Night Long," the Nashville Predators rookie has gotten to know it pretty well.

The club decided a few weeks ago to make Richie's 1980s' tune their postgame victory anthem, and it was blaring in the locker room after Smith scored two goals in a 4-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at Honda Center.

Nashville's recent success against Anaheim has seemingly gone all night long, and Smith's rookie tear helped the Predators finish a Western trip 3-1-1.

The Ducks, who went 1-3-3 on their seven-game road trip, fell to 0-4-2 in their last six games.

Fresh out of the University of Wisconsin, the 22-year-old Smith has seven goals and seven assists in 15 NHL games. He bookended the victory with goals in the first and third periods in Nashville's first game without leading scorer David Legwand, filling in with Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist on the second line.

"We were trying to fill in the gaps for Legwand," Smith said. "They were good. They were making monster plays out there and making it easy for me to get open. Everyone was kind of clicking tonight."

Pekka Rinne made 31 saves to improve to 8-2-2 lifetime against the Ducks and best Anaheim's Jonas Hiller.

Including the playoffs, Nashville has won 10 of the past 13 meetings against Anaheim, including the first two this season.

Not that Nashville was counting.

"There are no easy games," forward Martin Erat said. "It doesn't matter if we lose five or win five. Every game is going to be tough. We've got such a good (streak) here right now. From a bad loss (to L.A.) yesterday we came back strong. It's very important, especially on the road."

The Predators led 3-2 after two periods but got some quick breathing room when Smith buried a feed from Wilson 1:36 into the third after Wilson spun free from Saku Koivu in the corner.

Nashville took a 3-2 lead into the third after an awkward second period in which both teams squandered power plays and the Predators scored on a shorthanded penalty shot.

Anaheim defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky poked Erat with his stick on a shorthanded breakaway attempt and Erat was awarded a penalty shot even though he broke in unimpeded on Hiller and got the shot on goal.

Erat said he was hooked and slashed on the play, but Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle thought otherwise.

"If they're going to call penalty shots for people slashing the stick or pushing on the hand, or not hooking, then there will be a lot more penalty shots in the league this year," Carlyle said.

Erat subsequently roofed a wrist shot over Hiller to give the Predators a 3-1 lead, but Anaheim responded 84 seconds later when Francois Beauchemin whacked home Corey Perry's rebound in the crease.

It was the gritty type of goal that Anaheim needs to more of as the Ducks struggle amid questions about a lack of offense. Anaheim is averaging fewer than two goals a game. The Ducks had lots of chances offensively but couldn't break through at home.

"It's really tough," Cam Fowler said. "There is not much to be said. We're in a funk right now. It's up to us to battle and try to get out of it."

Anaheim also went 0 for 5 on the power play.

"Power plays now are about results," Carlyle said. "With the group that we have and the success that we've had over the years, for whatever reason right now we can't find it. It's going to have to come to maybe making some personnel changes on the groupings."

The penalty shot was the latest wrinkle in a budding rivalry that initially resumed Oct.29 with Beauchemin's hit on Mike Fisher. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf reportedly traded barbs with Jordin Tootoo while Nashville coach Barry Trotz repeated to The Tennessean on Wednesday that Anaheim has "some guys who aren't exactly lily white" in their play.

Wednesday was also the first meeting at Honda Center since Nashville eliminated Anaheim last season, a playoff series that saw two Anaheim players get suspended for stomping and illegal hit incidents.

Aside from a Matt Beleskey hit on Tootoo, the Ducks made little noise early and fell into a 2-0 hole before Fowler wristed in a shot that was tipped by Devante Smith-Pelly with 39 seconds remaining to get the Ducks within 2-1 after one period.

Nashville, playing the second of back-to-back games, jumped on Anaheim for two goals in the opening 4:54.

Smith threw a puck on net from behind the goal line that made it through Hiller's right pad at 1:20. Then Wilson's pass in the slot hit Koivu's stick and went past an outstretched Hiller.

"I was just trying to get it on net," Smith said of his first goal. "I can't say I was trying to put it in off his foot."

Said Erat of Smith, "He's a great surprise for us. He gives us secondary scoring, and that's what we're looking for. He's doing a great job with it."
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