Despite a valiant comeback attempt, the Ducks came up short in a 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.
Rickard Rakell's team-leading 29th and 30th goals of the season cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2, but that was the closest they came against the league's hottest team. The loss snapped Anaheim's three-game winning streak in the first half of a back-to-back set that concludes tomorrow night in Dallas. With the loss, the Ducks remain at the 80-point mark on the season (34-22-12).
Rakell's torrid pace is worth mentioning, as is Ryan Getzlaf's assist streak. It marked the fifth consecutive game that Rakell has scored in (eight goals total) and gave him 10 points over that span. Meanwhile, Getzlaf's two-assist performance gave him 10 assists and 11 points over a four-game assist/point streak. John Gibson made 24 saves in the loss, just his second regulation defeat since the All-Star break (8-2-1).
"We played good at the end of the game," said Rakell. "We kept coming at them. We know we can be a good team if we play like that for 60 minutes. Later in the game, we came together and attacked with speed. Tried to push pucks down into their zone and stay on their defense."
As for the Predators, the beat simply went on. Craig Smith, Ryan Johansen, Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson scored for Nashville, which pushed its winning streak to a franchise-best 10 consecutive games. The Predators continue to sip atop the Western Conference with 97 points (44-14-9). Pekka Rinne (31 saves) improved to 18-2-1 since January 1.
The Preds opened the scoring just 6:26 into the game when Smith, who led a three-on-two rush, stopped up just inside the blueline, walked in and sent a shot top shelf for his 21st goal of the season.
Nashville doubled its lead at the 15:10 mark of the first period when Johansen got a touch on Arvidsson's initial just outside the crease. It represented Johansen's 10th goal of the season and ended a four-game drought.
"We were thinking a little bit too much about playing defense and protecting their rushes," said Rakell. "But that's when they're strong, fast and creating plays. We gave it a go, but unfortunately it wasn't enough."
The score remained the same until the final minutes of the second period when the Predators scored a shorthanded goal on Anaheim's first power play of the game. It was the third shorthanded goal of the season for Watson, who stuffed home a rebound after Gibson made the initial save on Colton Sissons' breakaway.
Seconds later, Ryan Kesler and Johansen squared off in a brief fight that went decisively in Kesler's favor. The fight was a long time coming, as the two centers sparred throughout the Western Conference Final last spring.
The Ducks got on the board seven minutes into the third period when Rakell finished off an impressive sequence with Corey Perry and Getzlaf. As Perry walked in on the right side, he wound up as if to unload a slap shot. Instead, it was a shot-pass right to Rakell, who found space along the left post.
Video: ANA@NSH: Rakell, Perry combine for beautiful goal
Rakell lit the lamp again at the 16:35 mark of the third when he buried a shot in the slot for his 30th goal of the season. He set a career high in goals last season with 33 and he is well on his way to surpassing that mark this season.
Video: ANA@NSH: Rakell buries Getzlaf's feed for second goal
Arvidsson scored an insurance marker with less than two minutes remaining on a 2-on-1 to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.
The Ducks will close out their back-to-back set tomorrow night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.