The Anaheim Ducks snapped the Nashville Predators nine-game home win streak by claiming a 5-2 road win on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Despite goaltender Pekka Rinne returning from injury to the Nashville net for his first start in three weeks, the Ducks notched four-straight goals to open the game and put the Preds in a large deficit less than five minutes into the second period.
The Ducks Jakob Silfverberg tallied less than four minutes into the game off of a miscue between Rinne and Shea Weber.
“It wasn’t a great start,” Rinne said of the game’s opening moments. “Obviously, right away I put us behind the eight ball. Originally, I probably felt a little rusty, but after that start, I felt all right. A few unlucky bounces and a couple of tips; not the way that you want to start.”
The Preds were frustrated on offense for the first 40 minutes of the contest, repeatedly turned back by the Ducks and pushed out of the Nashville offensive zone. Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette called the mismatch an issue with Anaheim’s speed defensively outplaying Nashville’s attack.
“I think the lack of success was a combination of their speed and us not being up to speed,” Laviolette said. “They played a quick defensive game, they were quick into the battles. We just weren’t into those battles in the way we needed to be.”
Three penalties in a three minute span to end the first and to begin the second frame stunted any early comeback attempt from the Predators and forced them to kill off two 5-on-3 power-play opportunities for Anaheim.
The Ducks tallied right as the third minor expired and then added another score 43 seconds later for a four-goal advantage. The visitors passed Nashville for sole possession of first place in the NHL with the victory.
“I just don’t think we had any momentum to start with,” Predators forward James Neal said. “We came out flat. I don’t know why that was, but I like the way we got going in the third. It just shows what kind of hockey club we can be when we are playing. Every guy would say the same thing, disappointing start and we didn’t have our legs under us early.”
Rinne and Laviolette Talk:
Shortly after the Ducks went up 4-0 in the middle frame, Laviolette called his timeout. But unlike past occasions, such as in Tuesday’s win over the Maple Leafs, the coach didn’t use the 30 seconds to try and refocus his team as a whole.
Instead, Laviolette solely wanted to check in with his netminder.
“I just wanted to make sure that he was OK; that physically [and] mentally he was OK,” Laviolette said. “I think with coming off a break like that, I’d rather have a conversation. Maybe he wasn’t feeling that good or something, but everything was fine with him.
“I think that staying in the game and battling the way he did is only going to make him better. With the work that he got, he made some tremendous saves out there. But any time someone comes back like that, I think you have to work through the process of being game ready.”
If the pair’s chat near the bench appeared rather amicable, it’s because it was. Both Rinne and Laviolette talked frankly about how the goaltender was feeling at that point of the contest.
With Rinne making his first start in 23 days, the Predators head coach wanted to ask the goalie if he was all right, and if he wanted to remain in the contest; quite different from the all too familiar yank manoeuvre pulled by coaches when their goaltender doesn’t appear to be at his best.
Rinne said after the contest that when Laviolette presented him with the option of remaining in the game, he was glad to take it.
“It was good for me to get the minutes and get the full game under my belt,” Rinne said. “You can’t duplicate games in practices. Even though it wasn’t super busy for me, I was still tired. My legs were burning. It was three weeks off, so now I have to get it going again. I don’t see any more excuses after this one.”
Wilson Sets Career Highs:
Colin Wilson got the Predators on the board in the third period with a goal that set new career bests in points and goals in a season for the forward. The winger has been red-hot since Dec. 22, tied for the NHL lead in points since that date with 23.
“He has a good shot and a big body,” Neal said of his linemate Wilson. “He skates really well and protects the puck. I think he is just starting to get a chance to show who he is and getting a chance to play in the offensive zone. He has been great from day one. I like playing with him and it’s good to see that he is doing well.”
With 17 goals and 36 points on the campaign, Wilson bested his top goal total set in 2010-11 and points mark registered in 2011-12.
“Things are really going for him right now,” Laviolette said of the forward. “He was playing great at the start of the season, and we weren’t disappointed in the way he was playing, the points just weren’t coming for him like they are right now. It’s great for him and for us that the contribution is right there on the score sheet.”
Nashville eclipsed the 45-shot mark for just the third time this season, registering 46 against the Ducks on Thursday night.
The Predators suffered their first home loss in 61 days on Tuesday, falling for the first time since Dec. 6, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
James Neal’s third period score placed him in a three-way tie for Nashville’s team lead in goals with 17; Filip Forsberg and Wilson also have the same goal total.
Silfverberg’s goal at 3:08 of the opening period was the first shorthanded goal given up by the Predators at home since Nov. 15.