Goals by Greg Johnson and Yanic Perreault launched the Nashville Predators to a solid start in a sold-out Gaylord Entertainment Center Sunday night, but the visiting Mighty Ducks of Anaheim turned the game around with a three-goal response before the first intermission and a fourth score late in the second to send the Predators to their third straight loss. Nashville's record moves to 24-10-3 on the season and 16-4-0 at home, and the team will look to rebound as it hits the road again for back-to-back games against Colorado and St. Louis on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I thought we came out well," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of Sunday's effort. "The turning point was after our second goal, they scored 17 seconds later. You have to prevent that from happening. It gives the other team life.
"From a period that looked like it was going to be owned by us a little bit, we were down 3-2," he added.
The Predators were outshot 21-10 in the first period, but showed some spark to start the second. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis and forward Jordin Tootoo delivered big hits early in the middle stanza and Scott Hartnell and Paul Kariya each had prime chances to tie the game before Anaheim scored the back-breaking fourth goal at 17:03 of the period. Hartnell and Kariya combined for Nashville's best chance of the third with only two-and-a-half minutes gone, but the Ducks' protected the lead well, short-circuiting the Predators' breakout attempts for much of the night and limiting the home team to 13 shots in the final 40 minutes of play.
"We have to be better as a team and as individuals," said Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 32 of 36 shots in the game. "We can't make mistakes. When one guy makes a mistake, it's like a downfall from there. We're losing those one-on-one battles in our zone. It's not a matter of the system. It's just a matter of work."
Trotz once again pinpointed team discipline as a problem area. The Predators made seven trips to the penalty box Sunday, spending a total of 14 minutes without their full complement of five skaters. The Mighty Ducks' third goal, the eventual game-winner, was scored on the power play in the final minute of the first period. On the four occasions When the Predators did have a manpower advantage over Anaheim, they were unable to capitalize. Nashville's power play was held scoreless for the second straight game, after notching goals in nine consecutive contests.
Johnson's third goal of the season, which came at 2:53 and put Nashville up 1-0, resulted from a flurry of scoring chances in front of Anaheim's net. After Scottie Upshall sent a shot wide to the left, Johnson retrieved the puck directly to the left of the goal and banked it in off of Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Exactly 10 minutes later, the Predators doubled their lead on Perreault's goal. During a rush up ice, Nashville winger Martin Erat absorbed a hard check into the boards at the right point while centering the puck to Perreault, who found the net for the 13th time this season with a sizzling shot from the high slot area.
Anaheim answered with two goals from Joffrey Lupul in a 3:09 span to tie the game at 16:29, then went ahead 3-2 on Scott Niedermayer's power-play tally at 19:20. Anaheim got its fourth and final goal off a counter-attack approximately 18 minutes later, as Jonathan Hedstrom banged home the rebound of a Teemu Selanne shot.
Notes: Yanic Perreault scored Sunday night to extend his point streak to three games. He has two goals and one assist in that span, 11 points in his last 10 games, and six goals in his last nine contests. Perreault, who leads the league in face-off win percentage, won nine of the 10 draws he took against Anaheim... Scottie Upshall registered an assist against the Mighty Ducks and now has posted eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) in his last 10 games... Defenseman Danny Markov notched an assist on Perreault's goal and has two helpers in his last three games. He also finished Sunday's game with a +1 rating, four hits and three blocked shots... After converting on 15 of 69 power play opportunities (21.7 percent) over the course of nine games, Nashville's power play has been held scoreless in its last 10 chances... Nashville has given up four goals in each of its last three games... The Predators are in the midst of a stretch in which the team is playing 12 games in 20 nights (December 27-January 15, with eight away and four home games)... Sunday's sellout vs. Anaheim was the Predators' third sellout of season and seventh crowd of 16,000 or more. Counting the Jan. 6 game against Detroit, which has already sold out, the Predators will have had four sellouts and eight crowds of 16,000 more in first 21 games of the 2005-06 season. By comparison, Nashville sold out one game and had three crowds of 16,000 or more in first 21 games of 2003-04 and finished the season with six sellouts... Jamie Allison was the only scratch from Nashville's lineup Sunday.
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