ANAHEIM – A third straight rough start at home finally proved too much to overcome for the Anaheim Ducks, who this time didn’t have another comeback in them.
The Ducks and goalie Jonas Hiller looked shaky from the outset and didn’t recover in a 5-2 defeat to the Predators at Honda Center. Anaheim, which had mounted impressive comebacks after mediocre starts in each of their last two wins, couldn’t muster the same magic tonight.
"We talked about it before the game tonight," said defenseman Francois Beauchemin of avoiding another slow start. "We have to stop talking about it and do it."
The Ducks snapped a streak in which they were undefeated in regulation in their last six games (5-0-1), and missed a chance to increase their one-point lead on the Sharks in the race for the Pacific Division title.
"We can't keep doing this," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "We're a good team with the lead, but we haven't had that in the last four games."
As they have made a habit of doing lately, the Ducks got off to a rocky start in the first period, giving up three to Nashville in the first 14 minutes. That included back-to-back strikes from Colin Wilson and the first of two goals in the game from Mike Fisher.
"It’s something we have to pay close attention to," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "We’re not starting games on time. Eventually someone is going to beat you, especially when you give up three or four goals right off the hop. Tonight was one of those nights. We have to get ready for the next one."
Anaheim got one back with five minutes left in the first, as the Preds turned the puck over to Patrick Maroon behind the net and he slipped the puck to Kyle Palmieri for the goal.
But Nashville went back in front by three a couple minutes later when Patric Hornqvist snuck in a wraparound past Jonas Hiller, chasing the Anaheim netminder to the bench in favor of Frederik Andersen.
Though Hiller wasn't his best, Getzlaf was quick to defend him. "Jonas has played unbelievable for us all season, and tonight we didn’t help him," Getzlaf said. "They got some bounces early, but we didn’t stick up for him or answer the bell. Those are things we’ve got to do as a group for our goaltender."
The Ducks got within two a few minutes into the second period when Rickard Rakell banged a wraparound off goalie Pekka Rinne, and the rebound came to Daniel Winnik, who chipped it home.
The Ducks’ disappointment was compounded when they had a couple of potential goals waved off late in the second. A quick whistle with the puck pinned under Rinne cancelled what looked to be a possible Ducks score, as the puck snuck behind the Nashville goalie over the stripe. A little later, the puck seemed to cross the goal line when Shea Weber grabbed it and appeared to put it in Rinne’s pad as he crashed into him. The goal was waved off on the ice, and replays proved inconclusive.
Prior to that, Fisher made it 5-2 on his second goal of the game, as Weber tagged a slap shot that hit Andersen in the mask and settled into the crease, where Fisher was able to tap in the loose puck.
The shot apparently got to Andersen, who was replaced by Hiller to start the third period and did not return. Boudreau said after the game that Andersen was kept out as a precaution.
The Ducks have tomorrow to regroup before playing at Edmonton on Sunday and at Vancouver on Monday, continuing a stretch of nine straight against teams not likely to make the postseason.
"We haven’t been good defensively. That’s one aspect of our game that we have to get better at for the playoffs," Beauchemin said. "Every single guy has to be better, mentally sharp and ready to play. We all know what we have to do."