Kyle Palmieri and the Anaheim Ducks will be sorry to see February turn into March.
Palmieri snapped a 10-game drought by scoring three consecutive goals for his first NHL hat trick as the Ducks capped the third 11-win month in franchise history by routing the weary Nashville Predators 5-1 at Honda Center on Wednesday night.
The Ducks have won seven in a row at Honda Center after losing their home opener to Vancouver. The finished February with an 11-2-0 mark and will enter March on top of the Pacific Division with a 14-3-1 record after their seventh win in eight games.
Nick Bonino and Saku Koivu also scored for the Ducks, who swept the three-game season series from the Predators. First-year Swedish goaltender Viktor Fasth, who lost for the first time in nine career decisions when the Ducks were beaten 5-2 at Los Angeles on Monday, stopped 20 shots and allowed only a second-period goal by Craig Smith.
"I think we were able to catch them on a very tired night," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said, "It was their fourth game in six nights, flying cross-country, They didn't look like they had the normal energy that a Nashville team does."
Boudreau was pleased that his team didn't let the loss to their archrival turn into a losing streak.
"Good teams lose games -- the League is too tough," he said. "But if you want to be a real good team, you try not to lose two in a row. I think they took that to heart."
Fasth was glad for the chance to get back on the ice after being beaten in L.A.
"After a loss you always want to play again -- you almost want to play the same game again to change it, but that's not possible," he said. " We knew what we had to do -- just focus on this game and do everything right."
Nashville, which began a three-game trip through California, lost for the third time in four games. The usually stingy Predators have allowed four or more goals in each of their past three games.
"We're not happy," center Paul Gaustad said. "It's not how we're going to win road games at all. We have to learn from it and not let it happen again. We wanted to start this trip off well, and we didn't. We have to come out in San Jose [on Saturday] and get the two points."
The Ducks jumped on the Predators early, scoring twice in 61 seconds to take a 2-0 lead before the game was four minutes old.
Bonino put the Ducks ahead with his fifth of the season at 2:48 thanks to some hard work by Emerson Etem. The rookie forward raced in on the forecheck and took the puck away from goalie Pekka Rinne behind the Nashville net. He slid the puck to Bonino, who stepped around Paul Gaustad and snapped home a 10-foot shot before Rinne could get back into the net.
"It's a bonus goal," Boudreau said of getting the opening tally from his fourth line. "It sort of brings energy to the rest of the lines."
Palmieri's first goal was a fine individual effort after Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry worked the puck up the ice. Palmieri, flying up the left wing, took Perry's pass in stride at the Nashville line, cut past All-Star defenseman Shea Weber and stepped around Rinne before sliding the puck into a half-empty net at 3:49.
His second goal, at 16:57, was much more of a group effort. Getzlaf won an offensive-zone draw and got the puck to Perry behind the net to the right of Rinne. Perry zipped a passout to Palmieri in the slot for a one-timer that Rinne had no chance to stop.
"Corey and Ryan are two phenomenal players and definitely two of the best in the world," Palmieri said. "It’s an honor to be on the ice with them and be on their line. At the same time, they’re guys who are phenomenal playmakers as well as goal scorers. I just knew I had to get out there and work hard and find those areas. I knew if I was open, they’d get me the puck."
The same combination made it 4-0 at 1:07 of the second period. With the Ducks on the power play, Getzlaf controlled the puck and slid a pass to Perry near the left post. Perry's cross-crease pass found Palmieri racing down the right side for a high shot into a wide-open net to complete his first NHL hat trick.
"He's had a couple of chances in the past few games," Boudreau said. "Today it was really good that he was able to score. When he's scoring goals and [Bonino] is scoring goals and you're getting goals from guys that aren't normally -- well, 'not normally' is our leading scorer -- it's good."
Nashville finally got on the board midway through the middle period thanks to a tic-tac-toe passing play. Rich Clune carried deep into the Anaheim zone and dropped a pass to Kevin Klein in the right circle, setting up a 2-on-1 down low. Klein's pass across the slot found Smith for a one-timer past Fasth at 9:27. It was Smith's third of the season and second in two games.
Fasth preserved the three-goal lead with 3:16 left in the period by gloving David Legwand's rocket from the high slot after a giveaway by Anaheim defenseman Luca Sbisa.
Koivu crashed the net and swatted home the rebound of Francois Beauchemin's power-play slapper with 39.9 seconds remaining for a 5-1 lead after two periods. Chris Mason played the third period for Nashville after Rinne stopped only 16 of 21 shots.
"Today I just stood there and enjoyed how the guys played," Fasth said. "Some of the goals they scored were unbelievable."
Material from team media was used in this report.