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Predators rout Ducks to stay perfect at home

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Defenseman Ryan Ellis scored one goal and set up two others in his return to the lineup to lead the Nashville Predators to a 5-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

Ellis missed Nashville's shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday with a lower-body injury after blocking a shot in a win at the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

He said the rest gave him a little extra jump.

"Sitting out a game, I got my legs back and obviously felt good out there," Ellis said. "The couple days' rest, or whatever it was, worked. Overall with the team, I thought that was probably our best game of the year, and we needed it tonight."

Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for the Predators (6-1-0), who have won all four of their games at Bridgestone Arena.

Jiri Sekac scored a power-play goal with 7:45 remaining in the third period and goaltender Anton Khudobin made 24 saves for the Ducks (1-4-1), who lost the opener of a five-game road trip.

"I thought the first period was very good," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought when they scored the first goal [early in the second period], it was like everybody's shouldered sagged. When you're having trouble scoring and the other team gets that first goal, you've got to dig deeper and we sort of felt a little sorry for ourselves for the next little bit, and the next thing you know it was 3-0."

Eric Nystrom opened the scoring at 3:40 of the second period. Forward Austin Watson fed the puck cross-ice on a 2-on-1 rush, and Nystrom beat Khudobin for his second goal of the season. It was the seventh time in as many games that the Predators scored the first goal.

"I think we're starting to get better," Nystrom said. "There have been games that maybe we shouldn't have won in those six [wins], but we've found a way. I think tonight's game was an example of the type of team we are."

Ellis gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 12:47 of the second period on a one-timer from the left circle. Mike Ribeiro made a perfect pass and Ellis blasted a shot past Khudobin for his first goal of the season. It came nine seconds after a hooking penalty to Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf expired.

"On that power play, I got a lot of shot opportunities," Ellis said. "[Defenseman Seth Jones] and [Ribeiro] did a great job of finding me. Overall, guys started shooting the puck. That's what we've talked about all year, and we got rewarded.

Ribeiro made it 3-0 at 17:00 when his bad-angled slap shot beat Khudobin. Ribeiro tried to feed Colin Wilson from the right circle, but his pass was blocked and came back to him. Ribeiro's shot got past Khudobin for his first goal.

"You want to have that confidence going and get everything in the right direction, and we are right now," Nystrom said. "Winning hockey games and playing well is what you want as a team. Maybe early on in the first few games, we kind of had a false sense of confidence because we weren't playing our best but we were still winning. Now it's moving in the right direction for us. We're playing the way we're supposed to play."

Defenseman Mattias Ekholm's breakaway goal at 3:03 of the third period made it 4-0. Ellis' lead pass sprung Ekholm past the Anaheim defense for a slap shot that went past Khudobin's blocker.

"[Anaheim] is a team we expect to be there down the stretch," Ellis said. "They're good every year. They've hit a bit of a road bump to start, but we knew they'd be hungry, desperate. We had to have the same mentality of desperation. I think we had it tonight, and that was one of our better games. It was good to see."

Sekac got the Ducks on the board at 12:15 when he took a pass from Ryan Kesler and one-timed the puck past Rinne for his first goal and Anaheim's first power-play goal of the season. Wilson converted a feed from Ellis a power-play goal with 1:42 remaining.

Anaheim failed to build off its first victory, a 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

"The only way you get out of it is work harder and stay with your structure and stay with doing the right thing," Boudreau said of Ducks' early-season struggles. "Eventually you get some puck luck, and you start feeling better about yourself and you don't make those mistakes because you're making passes with confidence. You're making plays with confidence. You're coming back to the spots with confidence."

Nashville defenseman Barret Jackman returned after missing one game with an upper-body injury. Anaheim defenseman Clayton Stoner returned after missing three games with a lower-body injury.

Anaheim continues its trip against the Wild on Saturday, the same night Nashville hosts the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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