Five players had multi-point efforts as the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 5-1 final on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds are 6-1-0 through seven games, tied for the second-best start in franchise history.
Ryan Ellis and Colin Wilson each potted a goal and two assists, while Seth Jones, Mattias Ekholm and Mike Ribeiro had two points each.
“I like the way we have played for the last few games,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “In the last four games, I think we have had more attack to our game. The guys seem to be sharper with their skating and passing, both offensively and defensively. Both sides are playing better. We have to keep getting better and keep improving.”
After a scoreless first, the Preds found the back of the net in the second on multiple occasions. Nystrom finished off a slick feed from Austin Watson at the top of the crease, beating Ducks netminder Anton Khudobin through the five hole for his second marker on the season.
“I was able to get around [the defenseman] and [Nystrom] was perfect going hard to the net,” Watson said. “I kind of ripped it at him and good on him for handling it and putting it in.”
Just after a Nashville power play had expired, Ellis, who returned to the lineup on Thursday after missing one game with a lower-body injury, played catch with Ribeiro before finishing with a slapper for a 2-0 lead.
Before the middle frame was out, Ribeiro got on the scoresheet again, this time with his first goal of the season, after James Neal beat out an icing call to continue the play. Neal earned the primary assist on the play, extending his point streak to four games.
Anaheim broke the shutout courtesy of a Jiri Sekac tally on the power play in the third, but Wilson capped off the scoring for the Preds, depositing a power-play goal of his own, his first of the season.
Pekka Rinne made 27 saves on the night for Nashville, who won their third contest in a row.
“We’re working hard to establish ourselves where we want to be in the standings and that’s at the top,” Nystrom said. “We want to continue this the whole season and every night’s a new test. We’ve got Pittsburgh coming in here next game, and that’s going to be a really strong challenge for us. We’ve got to continue to improve and we want to stay on the top. That’s where we think we belong.”
Watson, Fourth Line Set the Tone
Watson’s pass on Nystrom’s goal in the first period was noticeable enough, but his hit later in the frame on Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf sent a message that was well received throughout the contest.
“You’re coming into our building and it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s going to be a tough night,” Nystrom said of the hit. “[Our line], we came back with a purpose and a job and [Watson’s] hit was the nail in the coffin. To see that by a rookie putting Getzlaf down, that’s awesome.”
Watson, who skated with Nystrom and centerman Paul Gaustad on the fourth line, matched up against Getzlaf and Corey Perry for most of the evening, not allowing Anaheim’s top guns much of anything.
“As a unit, [Gaustad, Nystrom] and myself, we wanted to bring a lot of pace to the game,” Watson said. “Our job is to make it hard on the other team and sometimes we’ll get rewarded like that with a nice goal.”
The play from not only the fourth line, but the entire roster has the Preds tied for first place in the Western Conference. It’s still early in the season, but it’s not a bad distinction to hold.
“It’s where you want to be; you want to be successful,” Laviolette said. “You want to continue to get better, but it is a long season. We held the top spot in the NHL last year, but we need to make sure we are consistent with what we are doing for the entire year. It’s early in the season, but it’s a good spot to be in at the moment.”
Gif of the Game:
Austin Watson absolutely levels the Ducks Ryan Getzlaf.
Eric Nystrom on Austin Watson laying a huge hit on Ryan Getzlaf:
“[Watson’s] hit was the nail in the coffin,” Nystrom said. “To see that by a rookie putting Getzlaf down, that’s awesome.”
Ryan Ellis’ three-point effort against the Ducks was just the second three-point outing of his career, with the first coming almost a year to the day, on Oct. 21, 2014, against Arizona.
With an assist tonight, James Neal has tied his longest point streak with the Preds, which came from Nov. 8-15, 2014, when he had points in four-straight games (2g-3a). Neal has five goals and three assists in his last four games.
The Predators finish off their three-game home stand on a Golden Saturday as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators scored goals all over the Ducks net on Thursday as shown by the evening’s infographic.
Infographic: Preds Burn Ducks