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Mully's Musings: at Anaheim

by Bryan Mullen / Nashville Predators
There was no better way for Nashville to end its five-game road trip.

The Predators posted a solid 4-2 victory at Anaheim on Wednesday, ending a successful stint away from Bridgestone Arena. Nashville went 3-1-1 and found ways to win with some key players missing time with injuries.

On Wednesday, the Predators once again jumped out early on the Ducks and scored on their first two shots. In their last meeting on Oct. 29, Patric Hornqvist scored 14 seconds into the game. The Preds went on to win that one 3-0.

Anaheim came into this game angry. The Ducks had just finished up a seven-game road trip and picked up only one victory. But Nashville relied on timely scoring, stellar goaltending from Pekka Rinne and maturity.

Nashville also got some good news on the injury front. Defenseman Kevin Klein returned to the lineup after missing two games. He got banged up blocking a shot against Phoenix on Nov. 3. Forward Sergei Kostitsyn also returned.

On to the musings…

Smith on fire: Craig Smith scored two goals, nearly had his first NHL hat trick, and continued to prove why he is one of the NHL’s best rookies. His first goal came just 1:20 into the opening period and put the Ducks on their heels early. His second gave Nashville a two-goal cushion early in the third. Smith stepped up in the absence of David Legwand, who suffered an upper-body injury at L.A. on Tuesday. Smith has also taken over the NHL rookie scoring lead in both points (14) and goals (seven), and he is tied for the rookie lead with assists (seven).

Wilson’s confidence: It was a hot topic earlier in the season. Forward Colin Wilson appeared to be playing with more determination. But could he keep it up? Well, he’s answered that. And then some. Wilson is playing his best hockey as a Predator. He had a goal and an assist on Wednesday and is playing with patience. He is also using his strength better than he has in the past. He had two assists and a +6 rating in the first four games of the road trip, and added to that total at Honda Center.

Veteran presence: Martin Erat played a key role in the victory. He was hit in the face with a puck early in the second and had to head to the locker room to be repaired. He returned and eventually had three breakaways. A penalty shot was called on one of them, and it came when Nashville was shorthanded. Erat converted the penalty shot to give the Preds a 3-1 lead at 12:48 of the second. The last Nashville player who scored a shorthanded penalty shot goal was Vernon Fiddler on Nov. 6, 2008 at Calgary. Entering tonight, only one player this season had a shorthanded penalty shot goal (Zach Parise, Oct. 21). Last season, there were only six shorthanded penalty shot goals.

F Craig Smith: “It’s a really good win. That’s a good team. To pick up some points here on the road against them is really big. The boys are really excited about it.”

F Craig Smith, Nashville: 2 goals, 1 assist, +3 rating, team-high 6 shots
F Colin Wilson, Nashville: 1 goal, 1 assist,
F Patric Hornqvist, Nashville: 3 assists, +2 rating

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