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Ducks rally, edge Predators in shootout

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- The Anaheim Ducks wouldn't mind a blowout win every now and then, but Ryan Kesler has a different take on it.

"Those are boring, for everyone," Kesler said.

Kesler and the Ducks could joke after he scored in the third round of the shootout to lead Anaheim to a 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators at Honda Center on Sunday.

Kesler's wrist shot beat Predators goalie Carter Hutton stick-side to give the Ducks (26-9-3) their 20th one-goal win this season (20-0-6), the most in the NHL, in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference.

"Good teams know how to win those one-goal games," Kesler said. "That's what they are in playoffs. They're tight, one-goal games. If we know how to win them now, it's going to make it that much easier in the playoffs."

Jakob Silfverberg also scored in the shootout, his NHL-leading sixth, and Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen stopped two of three attempts, the last on Ryan Ellis to set up Kesler's winner. Anaheim hit the midway point of the schedule with a League-leading 58 points, an accomplishment given its 238 man-games lost to injury.

"We're first in NHL," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "You can't really ask for more than that. Knowing that, we know we've got better hockey to play. We can be better at staying out of the box. Those are things we need to focus on. I think if we do that, we'll be successful."

The Ducks outshot the Predators (25-9-4), 14-3, in the third period and broke through to tie it when Beauchemin put in the puck in from the left side with 2:17 to go, although it appeared to hit the shaft of Matt Beleskey's stick on its way in.

It was the second straight night that Nashville blew a lead with fewer than three minutes remaining in regulation after it lost a 6-3 lead with 2:01 to go in a 7-6 overtime win against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

"It's frustrating, but it's nothing we can't fix," Craig Smith said. "We'll go back and look at the mistakes that we made, if there were any, and work on it.

"We're an extremely nitpicky team. We want to be the best in every category, every night. After tonight, there's something to work on, definitely."

Smith and Seth Jones scored power-play goals in a span of 3:23 of the second period to give the Predators a 3-2 lead. Jones' wrist shot hit Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy on its way through traffic at 13:51; Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was without a stick. Smith was open to put in his own rebound at 17:14 after Jones held off Kesler near the boards to keep the puck in.

Anaheim took a 2-1 lead on Corey Perry's first goal since Nov.29. Perry tipped Rene Bourque's pass at 2:52 of the second to finish a good-looking rush.

"When he starts scoring, it's always a good sign," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It means he's getting better. He's starting to feel it a little bit more."

Beleskey's team-leading 17th goal came on a wrist shot from above the right circle that might have ramped off the stick blade of Predators defenseman Anton Volchenkov and over Hutton's glove at 12:15 of the first.

It was Hutton's second start since Nov. 20. He helped Nashville kill two penalties in the third and made a glove save on Silfverberg with about 10 minutes left in regulation.

"I thought I played really well," Hutton said. "I thought I gave us a chance to win. I think we're giving up a lot late in games. It's something that's happened to us a lot late in games. I can only control what I can."

Mike Ribeiro had three assists and has 52 points in 48 career games against Anaheim. Forsberg tied Alexander Radulov for the franchise single-season rookie record of 37 points.

Andersen got his 42nd win in 58 career decisions, the best start since Bull Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens in 1944.

Nashville left wing James Neal missed his second straight game because of a lower-body injury.

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