Patrick Eaves scored the winner in the shootout, and the Nashville Predators fell by a 4-3 final to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night at Honda Center. The loss is the third consecutive for the Preds, but Nashville does collect a single point, upping their total to 74 overall on the season, three ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division.
Nashville took a 2-0 lead in the first period against the Ducks and Pekka Rinne was stellar for the Preds making 39 saves on the night and four more in the shootout, but Anaheim battled back from being down two goals before ultimately prevailing.
"They just played harder," Preds defenseman Ryan Ellis said of the Ducks. "They worked harder, they battled harder and we didn't deserve much out of that game. We're lucky we got a point there."
The start was a strong one for Nashville, with Colin Wilson and Ellis each scoring during a two-minute span in the first period.
Wilson took a feed across the offensive zone from James Neal and buried a backhander past Jonathan Bernier at 4:26 of the first. In his return from a lower-body injury, Ellis hammered a power-play goal home 117 seconds after Wilson's 12th of the season.
Video: NSH@ANA: Ellis hammers a power-play goal past Bernier
Ryan Getzlaf put in a rebound with the Ducks on the power play to cut the visitor's advantage to 2-1 prior to the end of the first frame. The man-advantage goal was Anaheim's first in nine games.
Midway through the second, Filip Forsberg skated in on the wing with Getzlaf between him and the goal; the Swede then fired a shot with Getzlaf partially screening Bernier and whistled a bid into the cage for a shorthanded tally that put Nashville ahead, 3-1.
Forsberg's 27th of the season was also his third shorthanded goal, tying him with Viktor Arvidsson and boosting Nashville's numbers to 10 goals while down a man - a mark that leads the NHL in that category.
The marker for Nashville's leading goal-scorer was a bandaid on a second period that was in actuality dominated by Anaheim. Conversion met puck possession in the final seven minutes of the second for the Ducks, with Nick Ritchie drawing the home team within a goal.
"The first period was a decent period for us, but penalties got in the way of the second period," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "We lost rhythm a little bit, they capitalized and Peks played really well tonight and made some big saves. We gave up too much."
Roughly six minutes later and in the final minute of the opening 40, Rickard Rakell brought the Ducks all the way back with his 27th. Nashville had a number of chances to end it in overtime, but Eaves was the only one to score in a five-round shootout.
Video: NSH Recap: Rinne makes 39 saves in shootout loss
"That's the third loss in a row, and it's a huge game for us," Rinne said. "We're up 3-1, and we give them a chance to come back and that shouldn't happen at this point in the season. It's a tough loss. It's a big point for us, but it's a tough loss to take."
From here, the Preds will bus to Los Angeles and prepare to face the Kings on Thursday, looking to reverse what has now turned into a three-game skid.
"If it wasn't for Peks, we would've been in a big hole," Ellis said. "After that second period and more of the same in the third, it's not winning hockey. We were playing not to lose and we need to stay on the attack."
The shootout concluded the team's' three-game season series, with Anaheim winning 6-1 on Oct. 26 at home and Nashville winning 5-0 at Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 12. The Preds finish the season 1-1-1 against the Ducks.
P.A. Parenteau did not play on Tuesday due to an upper-body injury. Anthony Bitetto, Kevin Fiala, Brad Hunt and Colton Sissons were scratched.
Stop No. 2 of Nashville's three-game set in California comes on Thursday night in L.A. (at 9:30 p.m. CT).