The Nashville Predators played a workman-like game and controlled the pace for much of the contest, but couldn’t muster up enough offense, and dropped its fourth straight decision, 3-1, to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center Wednesday night (Oct. 17).
Chris Mason returned to his usual steady play after a couple of rough outings, stopping 28 of the 31 shots he faced. In just his second game since returning from off-season surgery, Ducks netminder J.S. Giguere made 28 saves for his first victory of his team’s Stanley Cup defending campaign.
“I thought Mase played a good game, and the team did too, and although we didn’t win, we took a step forward instead of backward and hopefully we can build on this,” goaltending coach Mitch Korn said. “Give Anaheim credit, the are a strong hockey team and are good in their own building, but we did dominate good portions of the game and that should give us some confidence moving forward.”
Nashville came out determined to start the game better than the past three games, when it surrendered leads in the opening period of the game. After painlessly killing a Scott Nichol interference call just seven seconds in, the Predators went on the attack, outshooting the Ducks 10-2 in the first 11 minutes of the game. This included a span of nearly two minutes where a dominating offensive-zone cycle led to boos from the home crowd.
“I thought we got off to a better start tonight, got some early pressure on their net and forced Giguere to make some good saves,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We played smarter and more responsible in our own zone, but it isn’t always how you start, but how you finish.”
Despite the early momentum, Anaheim burst the bubble with just 20 left in the opening frame. With Chris Kunitz taking out the defender in front, Corey Perry came untouched from behind the net and beat Mason high-glove side.
Both teams garnered some prime scoring chances in the second, but the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Ducks after 40 minutes. Anaheim’s Travis Moen rang one off the post at 6:40 while Giguere robbed David Legwand during the Predators first power play of the night after he was nearly caught out of position behind the net. J.P. Dumont caught some iron of his own as well, narrowly missing while breaking in 2-on-1 with Jason Arnott.
Chris Mason makes a stop on Samuel Pahlsson in the second period.
“The disappointing thing about the game was that we generated so many scoring chances, especially in the first two periods, but we just couldn’t finish out chances – we definitely need to score a few more goals,” Korn said.
The Predators were outshot 11-10 in the middle frame, just the second period this season that didn’t produce a goal by either team. It also proved to be the cleanest period of the Preds young season – they weren’t called for a single penalty. Special teams ultimately didn’t factor into the final result, with both teams being held scoreless on two man-advantage attempts.
A consistent presence in the Anaheim zone, methodically cycling the puck finally paid off for the Preds 2:24 into the third period. Alexander Radulov, Legwand and Martin Erat had the Ducks defense scrambling when Radulov ended up with the puck behind the net. The youngest Predator found Ryan Suter sneaking into the slot and Suter made no mistake about it, snapping a shot over Giguere’s glove from between the hash marks.
For Radulov, the assist extended his point streak to four games (1g-3a).
J.S. Giguere stops Jason Arnott.
The defending Stanley Cup champions responded though, reclaiming the lead, 2-1, at 4:47 on Petteri Wirtanen’s first NHL goal in his first career game. Tough guy George Parros picked up the primary assist, his first helper since Oct. 23, 2005, a span of 87 games.
Another Duck scored his first career goal to give his team a 3-1 lead at 12:23 of the third. Drew Miller picked off a pass at the top of his defensive zone, and broke in all alone on Mason, beating him five-hole.
Mason was pulled at 18:20 of the third in an attempt to make a late push, but couldn’t get a shot on goal as time ran down.
Nashville plays the second game of its California swing on Saturday, when its clashes with its playoff opponent from the past two seasons, the San Jose Sharks. Start time at HP Pavilion is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. CT, with all the action being followed on FSN South and WRLT Lightning 100.1.
GAME NOTES: Jed Ortmeyer was scratched for Nashville, and Anaheim sat Maxim Kondratiev, Todd Marchant and Jonas Hiller…By being held pointless, Dan Hamhuis saw his career-best five game point streak (1g-6a) come to a halt…By killing both of the Anaheim power plays it faced, the Nashville penalty kill improved to 24-27 (88.9%) on the season…The Predators have dropped the past five contests at the Honda Center, with their last win coming Feb. 20, 2004, 3-2 in overtime…Wednesday’s game was just the second time all season Nashville failed to score a power play goal…The Preds lone goal scorer, Ryan Suter, paced the team in ice time with 25:13 played, while Jason Arnott put a game-high five shots on goal.
1 - 0 ANA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 ANA
3 - 1 ANA
Greg De Vries