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Preds' strong showing cooks Ducks

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Tomas Vokoun
Photo by John Russell
Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped 36 shots against the physical Ducks to record his third shutout of the season.

The Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 Saturday night at a sold-out Gaylord Entertainment Center. Dan Hamhuis and Jason Arnott scored and Steve Sullivan added a 5-on-3 goal with 12.2 seconds left in regulation. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped all 36 shots he faced to record the shutout.

Nashville improves to 37-14-3 on the season and opens up a three-point gap over the Buffalo Sabres for the NHL lead in points.

Hamhuis put Nashville on the scoreboard 4:52 into the game when he fired a rolling puck from the left point. It found its way through traffic in front and beat Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Nichol, who was initially credited for tipping home the first Predators goal, was a central figure of the opening 20 minutes. At 13:58, Nichol collided with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and was whistled for elbowing--a call that the 17,113 fans at the GEC disputed. After emerging from the box two minutes later, Nichol led a rush up ice and was simultaneously penalized for diving and hooking. A television time-out followed and the crowd voiced its displeasure even more loudly.

Fifty-four seconds later Nashville's Steve Sullivan and Anaheim's Chris Pronger were sent to the box for slashing and diving, respectively. Predators forward David Legwand then drew a penalty during shorthanded rush less then a minute after those matching penalties to even the sides at four-on-four for two minutes. All together, the Predators killed off 3:46 of power play time against the league's second-best road power play team in the first period.

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Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped all seven shots he faced in the first, including a tough drive by Pronger that went through traffic before reaching Vokoun during Anaheim's first power play. Despite the preponderance of power-play time for the Ducks, Nashville had the best chances and J.S. Giguere was very solid for Anaheim. Sullivan hit the post just over a minute after Hamhuis' goal then Giguere turned aside bang-bang plays in the latter half of the first when Legwand and Kimmo Timonen were set up and robbed on glorious opportunities from in the slot.

After all the time spent killing penalties, Nashville finally got its first crack at a power play and capitalized. The goal, a bullet from the left circle by Arnott, came :56 into the second period. Nashville was set up in the offensive zone and team captain sent a pass from the top of the umbrella formation to the Arnott for a shot that caromed into the short side of the net off of Giguere.

Both goaltenders continued to be sharp in the second, with Giguere stopping Scott Hartnell around the 12:00 mark on what looked to be a sure goal after a cross-ice feed from Martin Erat. With just over two minutes left in the middle frame, Arnott was set up in the high slot for rifle shot that glanced off Giguere and ricocheted wide. Vokoun was perfect again, stopping all 11 shots he faced.

Highlights of Predators vs. Ducks, Feb. 3, 2007 (:36)

The third period turned rough, with scrums frequently breaking out after the whistles. Hartnell and Dustin Penner were issued matching roughing penalties at 10:39, then J.P. Dumont and Chris Kunitz were sent off for the same at 14:10. Things culminated at 18:39 when Hartnell delivered a check on  Samuel Pahlsson. Sean O'Donnell stepped in to challenge Hartnell, and the two dropped the gloves. As the other skaters paired off, Shea Weber and Travis Moen's grapple boiled over to fisticuffs. Weber eventually got the helmet off of Moen and began pulling the jersey over Moen's head when the Ducks tough guy landed a blind swing. Weber was stunned and had to be helped off the ice. Weber and Moen were each given major penalties for fighting as well as game misconducts. Hartnell and O'Donnell were issues fighting majors as well, with O'Donnell racking up two minutes for instigation and a game misconduct as well.

A 5-on-4 advantage for Nashville grew to a 5-on-3 power play when Pronger was whistled for slashing with 23.2 seconds remaining. Eleven seconds later, Sullivan banked the puck in off of the back of Giguere, who in frustration tossed his stick, turned around and shoved the net off its moorings. Sullivan's goal made it 3-0, salting the game away for the Predators.

NOTES: Steve Sullivan's power-play goal at 19:47 of the third period in 3-0 win over Anaheim on Saturday extended his consecutive games point streak to 10 games (6g-8a=14pts), equaling his club record. He scored his 20th goal of the season and has now scored at least 20 in eight straight seasons... Jason Arnott's power-play goal on Saturday was his 20th goal of season, marking his eighth straight 20-goal season and 10th in his NHL career. He now has goals in four straight games and points in seven straight (4g-5a=9pts)... Tomas Vokoun posted his third shutout of season on Saturday (36 saves). It was the Predators' ninth shutout of season (Chris Mason has five, Vokoun has three and Vokoun/Mason split a shutout), matching New Jersey for league lead (Martin Brodeur has all nine for the Devils)... Dan Hamhuis netted the game-winning goal on Saturday, becoming the 14th different Predator to score a GWG this season... J.P. Dumont's 32 assists are a career high... Paul Kariya is now seven games from 800 in his NHL career and is 11 assists from 500... Jason Arnott is four away from 300 career goals... J.P. Dumont is two points from 300 in NHL career... Scott Hartnell has 19 goals this season and is one away from his second straight 20-goal season... Kimmo Timonen, with 37 points (9g-28a), is three away from his fifth straight 40-point season... After Tuesday's game in Pittsburgh, seven of the next eight Predators games will be in Nashville... The Predators have won seven straight on home ice. They are 19-3-3 at the GEC for the season and 51-11-4 since the start of 2005-06 season... 16 of the Predators' final 28 games are on home ice... Predators are +38 in second periods this season, having outscored their opposition 75-37... Jordin Tootoo, Josef Vasicek and Jerred Smithson were scratched from the Predators lineup.

Post-Game Comments

General game impressions
"We had lost our last two games and hadn't had a real good effort. Playing Anaheim, it felt like a playoff game. It was fast, it was hard hitting, it was a very hard game. I thought we responded well. We got good contributions: obviously the first goal from Nichol, that got us going. Our special teams were real good tonight, two on the power play, and our penalty killing was real strong against a very, very dangerous Anaheim team."

On using the game as an indicator of how the teams match up
"Obviously they're missing one big part yet. I think both teams are similar in a lot of ways, with the ability to skate, to create off the rush and the transition, and both have good goaltending. I think our defense may be a little bit deeper, but we don't have those two studs of Niedermayer and Pronger that have loads of experience. Once they get Niedermayer in there that'll probably give them the edge up front with their top four just on experience. We've got some young guys that'll hopefully reach their level someday."

On the topic of goaltender Tomas Vokoun
"I thought Tomas was really strong, and getting the shutout was nice."

Post-Game Interviews:

Tomas Vokoun  (2:00)

Steve Sullivan  (:59)

Jason Arnott  (3:13)

Head Coach Barry Trotz  (8:22)

On the game
We played a good game today. They took a lot of shots, but most of the time they were outside shots. I think we had under 20 shots, but I mean there were some unbelievable chances. I think we played well from the start today. It was a good game, we came back strong against a good team.

On how he feels
Well, we have a little bit of the flu going around, as you can hear in my voice. It's a work in progress. You're trying to work hard in practice and I felt pretty good today. It's ironic, because I felt pretty good during those two games we lost. Some nights you don't feel good and you win the game and some nights you play pretty good and you lose.

On beating a team like Anaheim
Obviously, with Detroit being three points behind us and Anaheim too, they're a good team, and they're somebody you want to measure yourself against. So it's important. It's a confidence booster and you want to beat the good teams to know you can do it in the playoffs.

On playing in front of a sold-out crowd at home
Anytime we play here in Nashville, the crowd is really pumped and with the sellout here tonight, the crowd was really excited about a big match-up against a very good Anaheim team. I'm glad we came out and put a good performance on after our last two losses.

On emotions running high in the game
It's a rival, I think, because we are fighting for first spot in the conference. I think we both knew what was on the line and even thought there are 30 games left, we really wanted to go out and make sure we got back on our winning ways. No matter who the opponent was tonight, we were going it was our best performance we've seen in awhile and we definitely got it. 

On the physical game
When you're down a couple goals and time is starting to run out, you start trying to do whatever you can to motivate your team. So, we knew that they were going to try and come out and try and get physical and maybe get us rattled or try and get some penalties or do whatever they could to get back in the hockey game. I mean, that's what you do when you're down a couple goals.

On the sellout crowd and the game's emotions
16,000 people here will walk away happy. It was a great turnout and it got us excited. It was a great hockey game. You know what, that's hockey. You're going to be sticking up for one another and that's what's going to carry us a long ways in the playoffs and the regular season. It's not just one guy that's a tough guy; when you have 20 guys out there ready to back each other up.

On the Predators defense
I just think our (defensemen) are starting to mature. We probably have the youngest (defensemen) in the league and those guys are playing like they are 30 years old. They're very poised with the puck and the sky's the limit for them. If they can keep growing at the rate they are, then we are going to be a scary team for a long time.

Overall impression
"I think tonight was the just the difference of specialty teams.  They beat us on specialty teams tonight and we just didn't seem to generate very much on the offensive side 5 on 5.  We couldn't get much going"

On the lack of quality shots by Anaheim
"There was no good secondary shots, a lot of our shots were from the outside. We didn't really find a way to get inside for good rebound positioning and opportunities there. He saw most of the shots he got tonight."

On the physical play near the end of the game 
"I think it's a little bit of frustration but they were putting some licks on our guys too.  We came to the aid of each other and that's what were all about as a team."..."That's what good teams do."

Overall impression
"The puck wasn't rolling our way, and it didn't seem like we had the energy we usually have.  It was a frustrating night."

On shoving the net after Nashville's third goal
"I was just mad.  As a goalie when you're mad it's not like you can go fight or anything like that.  First thing I saw was the net and I pushed it."

Looking at the standings
"We gotta focus about our game, not where the other teams at.  We know they are going to show up, their going to work hard and its up to us to do the same.  I think if we play at the highest level we can as a team we will have a better chance of winning."

Overall impressions
"We just couldn't get anything going. They obviously did a good job of moving the puck up the boards.  They were coming with a lot of speed. We were kind of getting caught in no man's land a lot."

The mix-up at the end
"We've been a team all year that's stuck up for one another. It's an emotional game."


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