ANAHEIM - The Ducks certainly had bitter memories of their last battle with the Nashville Predators, and things didn't get any better tonight.
Nashville, which eliminated the Ducks from the playoffs each of the past two seasons, hung on for a 5-3 victory over Anaheim tonight at Honda Center. It was the first visit to Anaheim for Nashville since Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, which the Predators took on their way to a Stanley Cup Final berth.
Tonight Anaheim fought back from two three-goal deficits and got within one at 7:41 of the third period when Jakob Silfverberg punched in a rebound off a Derek Grant shot, barely squeezing the puck between goalie Pekka Rinne and the near post.
Video: NSH@ANA: Silfverberg beats Rinne on the short side
But the Ducks couldn't get the equalizer, twice sending goalie John Gibson to the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute and a half and ultimately paying for it when Predators defenseman P.K. Subban winged the puck nearly the length of the ice into the empty net.
"I didn't think we handled the puck and controlled the puck at all," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle lamented. "We were making passes at our teammates' feet. We were slapping the puck away. It was like we were caught in a funk for the first 20 minutes. We didn't demonstrate any emotion that was necessary. We didn't out-work the hockey club. We received the game."
As the Ducks fought to tie it late, they clearly missed the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves and Cam Fowler, each of whom remained out with injuries. Getzlaf sat for the second straight game with facial swelling, as he joined Kesler, Fowler and Eaves, who have longer-term injuries. Anaheim did get Kevin Bieksa back after he missed the last four contests with a hand injury.
"We don't have all of our top guys, but you can't expect to win games when you let in four goals," said Ducks defensman Hampus Lindholm. "Not many teams in the league win games like that. If we're going to win games, we need to get it down to one or two."
Not long after the Ducks killed a second straight early penalty, they went down 1-0 on a fluky goal in which Scott Hartnell deflected the puck off the inside of his skate and under Gibson.
Nashville made it 2-0 when Roman Josi was left wide open in the slot and slung a shot past Gibson glove side.
"It's embarrassing to start that way," said Ducks forward Chris Wagner. "For probably the majority of games this year, it was a good wakeup call, especially against that team. It's a good team. Rivalry game. The second half I thought we played pretty well. We were involved in every aspect of the game. We have to carry that into tomorrow."
The Preds got out to a three-goal lead just three minutes into the second when Sami Vatanen's stick got up near Gibson's mask and cause him to flinch just as a Matt Irwin shot through traffic sailed past them both.
"We didn't come out like we wanted to in the first period," Lindholm said. "That's something we need to clean up. You just have to look at yourself in the mirror and see what you can do to yourself to get motivated and play as hard as you can."
The Ducks finally got one back a minute later when Antoine Vermette took in a Ondrej Kase pass near the right post and tucked it in from a sharp angle.
Video: NSH@ANA: Vermette completes tic-tac-toe passing play
Nashville made it a three-goal advantage again late in the period when a Viktor Arvidsson one-timer on the power play fooled Gibson.
It was very late in the period, with 14.7 seconds remaining, that the Ducks got one back on the power play, as Lindholm one-timed a shot right off the faceoff past a screening Corey Perry and Rinne. It was Lindholm's second goal and fourth point in six games since returning from a shoulder injury.
Video: NSH@ANA: Lindholm buries PPG after faceoff win
Silfverberg's goal in the third ignited the crowd on the annual Country Night at Honda Center, but they didn't get the next goal they needed in falling to 6-6-1 on the season.
Anaheim plays at San Jose tomorrow before starting a five-game homestand that starts Tuesday vs. the Kings at Honda Center.