Just before the opening faceoff, it was announced that the Anaheim Ducks would be without their leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter much.
The Ducks had everything go their way against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night and, in front of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena, came away with the 5-2 victory.
Pekka Rinne returned from his three-week absence and allowed four goal on 26 shots.
“There were two redirect goals out there tonight where it hit something and completely changed direction and banked off a post into the net,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “[And then another] one of the goals he didn’t have a chance on. It was a point blank snapshot in front of the net so it was a tough night in the sense that we let in five goals but you can’t fault him.”
“Right away, I put us behind the eight ball,” Rinne said. “Originally, I probably felt a little rusty but after that start I felt alright. A few unlucky bounces and a couple of tips. Not the way that you want to start.”
Rinne is tied for the league lead in wins (29) despite having missed three weeks of action with a lower-body injury.
With Ducks defenseman Eric Brewer in the box for hooking early in the opening period, Jakob Silfverberg capitalized on some confusion in the Nashville crease. The Swede collected the rebound and slid it past Rinne to make it 1-0.
“I was going to play it and keep the play going,” Rinne recalled. “A couple of guys were yelling at the same time ‘keep it, keep it’ and then I was in between and didn’t really do anything. [Silfverberg] was able to poke it off and just cut in front of the net and put it in.”
Sami Vitanen would net his 11th of the year a few minutes later when he deflected a Clayton Stoner shot from the halfwall. In a sense, Nashville was fortunate to be down just 2-0 headed into the locker room after one period of play.
“We just weren’t executing our passes and our timing was off,” Paul Gaustad said. “Sometimes that happens in a game but we have to correct it quicker. As players, we have to be ready against a team like that because they’re going to capitalize on mistakes.”
The second period was more of the same as Matt Beleskey bagged one early and then Silfverberg tallied his second of the night. Laviolette called a timeout but, instead of meeting with his team to rally the troops, he met with his goaltender.
“He was kinda asking if I wanted to come out, being down 4-0 at the time,” Rinne said. “But it was good for me to get the minutes and get a game under my belt. You can’t duplicate games in practice.”
“I just wanted to make sure he was okay,” Laviolette said. “That physically he was okay and mentally he was okay. Just coming back off a break like that, I’d rather have a conversation. Maybe he wasn’t feeling that good but everything was fine. Staying in and battling like he did will only make him better.”
In the final stanza, the Predators tried to muster a comeback, outshooting the Ducks 24-2. Colin Wilson set new career highs in both goals and points with his marker early on and then James Neal notched his 17th of the year a little bit later but it wasn’t enough. Corey Perry tapped home the empty netter to round out the scoring and Anaheim moved into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 74 points.
“We started to play a little bit more simple,” Gaustad said of the third period. “We got more shots at the net, tried to make as many plays through the neutral zone as possible and just get the puck in deep. That’s what shifted some things.”
“I think we were ready to play,” Laviolette said. “There were some tough things that happened like some tough bounces early on and we didn’t seem to handle that very well. Then there was the penalty trouble in the second period which we also didn’t handle well. Once we got it dialed in and had some regular ice time in the third, we seemed to really hit the gas pedal and start to play our game but, in the end, it is too late.”
In a season that features 82 regular season games, there are bound to be a handful of nights where things just don’t go your way.
“There are going to be games you like and games you don’t,” Laviolette said. “But our group works hard. They’ll respond to this and get back at it.”
Their next chance to get back at it will be against the New York Rangers in a special matinee game this Saturday. It will be defenseman Kevin Klein’s first game back in Music City since being traded to the Broadway Blueshirts for Michael Del Zotto a little over a year ago.
Puck drops at 2:00pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:16 remaining in regulation):
1. Jakob Silfverberg (ANA)
2. Sami Vatanen (ANA)
3. Frederik Andersen (ANA)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Jakob Silfverberg (ANA)
2. Frederik Andresen (ANA)
3. Rickard Rakell (ANA)
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com