The Nashville Predators third-period lead evaporated quickly on Sunday night when the Anaheim Ducks struck for three goals in the first 10 minutes of the frame. Anaheim’s four tallies in the final period erased the Preds two-goal lead and gave the Ducks a 4-2 victory at the Honda Center.
In a battle between the two teams tied for first in the Western Conference, the NHL’s best team when trailing after two periods (.355 win percentage, 11-20-0) returned from the second intermission with a vengeance.
“For 40 minutes, we were solid,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We did everything we needed to do to win a hockey game. In the last 20 minutes, we completely got away from what we were doing for the first 40. They picked up their game and [our] response was not good.”
As much as the third period belonged to Anaheim, the middle frame was all Nashville. The visitors outshot their competition 15-3 and connected for two goals. Less than 90 seconds into the second, Taylor Beck finished off a beautifully executed 2-on-1 with Gabriel Bourque to make it 1-0.
Then at 6:49, the club’s power play converted for the second time in as many nights as Roman Josi’s slapper found its way through traffic. Josi’s marker gave the Preds a two-goal lead heading into the second intermission for the first time since Feb. 24 against Colorado.
But the third period proved to be a different story. The Ducks came out flying to begin the final frame and continued it through the end of the game, scoring four unanswered on the Preds to come away with the 4-2 victory.
Ryan Getzlaf, Kyle Palmieri, Nate Thompson and Cam Fowler all tallied for Anaheim in the period, pinning Nashville in their own end for the majority of the time and building a lead that the Predators couldn’t overcome.
“I don’t really know what happened [in the third],” Rinne said. “Obviously their first goal got them some momentum, and after that they scored two other quick goals. That’s a disappointing game on the road. The third period, that’s not how to handle your lead. We kept turning pucks over and this time it got us, and it’s disappointing.”
The Predators finished the four-game road trip with a 2-2-0 record, all against Pacific Division teams.
“The last couple of games, we’ve had a lot of grade-A chances, it just hasn't been going in,” forward Craig Smith said. “We’re working on it and we’re making changes internally… We just have to continue to be positive. We’ve got a little ways to go here, we have some time to fix things and be playing our best game before the playoffs.”
From here, the Preds head home to host Minnesota on Tuesday before a three-day break until their next contest. The three-day span marks the Predators longest period without games since the All-Star Break. Following the respite, Nashville begins the first of four-straight contests versus the Eastern Conference in a meeting with the Buffalo Sabres at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday evening.
With an assist on the second Preds goal, Filip Forsberg tied Mike Ribeiro for the team lead in points with 54. Roman Josi’s goal put him within one point of hitting the 50-point mark this season.
The Ducks completed their second rally of the season versus Nashville on Sunday. Two of Anaheim’s three wins over the Preds featured the Ducks trailing after 40 minutes of play before ultimately emerging with two points. Sunday’s win gave the Ducks a three-game season sweep of the Predators.
James Neal missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.