The Nashville Predators jumped on the Anaheim Ducks early, and they sustained that pressure throughout the contest to claim a 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions at the Sommet Center on Saturday night.
Nashville scored the game’s first three goals, and received a solid, 21-save effort from Chris Mason to improve to 8-4-1 on home ice. For the 10th time in the last 11 games, the Predators outshot their opponent, racking up a 33-23 advantage on the Ducks.
“You always want to have a strong first period, and I thought we were real good early in the game,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “They played last night so we tried to jump on them early and we got some results there.”
Similar to Thursday against Vancouver, the Predators launched an all-out assault on the Ducks in the opening minutes, racking up the first seven shots on goal and earning a power-play opportunity at 3:50. The Preds didn’t score on their first five-on-four chance of the evening, but grabbed a 1-0 lead at 5:52, just two seconds after Samuel Pahlsson returned to the ice.
The marker was a result of a nice second effort by Vernon Fiddler to win an offensive-zone faceoff. Fiddler, who returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with an injury, tied up his man and kicked the puck back to Jordin Tootoo at the top of the circle. Tootoo wristed a seeing-eye shot that went through a handful of bodies before finding twine far side. Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller, making his fourth career NHL start, never saw the puck sail over his right shoulder.
“In this league, you don’t have time to take slap shots all the time, so sometimes a wrist shot or a snap shot is better because it doesn’t give the goalie a lot of time to react. Fiddler and I talked about it before the puck dropped, and it was a big face-off win by him to start the play.”
Tootoo set a career high in goals (6) with the tally, and celebrated by dropping the gloves with his first fight since Oct. 6, going a round with Joe DiPenta at 11:12.
“Tootoo was really good tonight,” Trotz said. “He might have had the best first-minute shift anyone could have with a goal and a fight. He didn’t get a lot of ice time, but put forth a strong effort. He continues to show that maybe a bigger role and more ice time is in the future for him.”
Nashville appeared to take a two-goal lead at the 13:19 mark of the opening frame, but the David Legwand rebound attempt put into a wide-open net was disallowed. Officials emphatically waved the goal off, saying Legwand was the next Predator to touch the puck following a deflection that Alexander Radulov struck with a high stick.
A night after defeating Chicago 5-2, the Ducks seemed to get their wheels under them late in the opening 20 minutes, but Nashville took the wind out of their sails with a power-play goal with just 15.1 seconds left in the first. Like Tootoo’s tally, the goal was a product of an offensive-zone face-off win, this time by Radek Bonk. Off the draw, Marek Zidlicky lasered a point shot that Radulov redirected from the slot for his first goal in eight games.
For Zidlicky, the assist gives him three helpers in the last four outings.
“The second goal really helped us keep it going in the second period,” Trotz said. “You learn from the past, and that might have been our best period of the year. We talked about the second because we knew they would come out with their best effort.”
Simply throwing the puck on net put Nashville back on the board at 9:46 of the middle frame, giving it a commanding three-goal lead. Ryan Suter was the lucky party, floating a shot into traffic from 55 feet out. Hiller once again never saw it, as it snuck between his glove and right pad.
“We want to be a part of the offense, and I think to be successful we need to pitch in more than we have,” Suter said. “All good teams have good balance from their forwards and defense in their scoring.”
Jerred Smithson and Jed Ortmeyer celebrate Smithson's shorthanded marker in the third period of the Preds 4-2 victory on Saturday.
Tootoo was the biggest winner on the Preds third goal though, picking up the primary assist to clinch the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” – a goal, an assist and a fight. Fiddler assisted as well to clinch his fourth multi-point game of the season.
Mason came up with some big saves in the second, but Anaheim finally got one by him at the 14:44 mark of the second to narrow the Preds lead to 3-1. Seconds after Anaheim leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf rang one off the post, Shane Hnidy stepped in from his spot on the blue line and put a wrist shot in from the top of the slot for his first goal of the season.
Anaheim outshot the Predators 10-6 in the middle 20 minutes, but a dominant first period that produced a 19-6 advantage on the shot clock gave Nashville a nine-shot advantage through two.
Nashville reclaimed its three-goal advantage with another special-teams goal, this one a shorthanded tally, at 9:21. Jed Ortmeyer stole the puck and sprung Jerred Smithson on a quick counter attack in the neutral zone, with only one Duck back on defense after Chris Pronger wiped out in the neutral zone, Smithson had a clear lane to snap a wrist shot from the left face-off circle.
“The Smithson goal was huge, especially with them on the power play,” Trotz said. “Jed Ortmeyer really started that play with Smithson coming in and finishing the two-on-one with a great shot.”
The shorthanded tally was Nashville’s second in four games, with both Ortmeyer and Smithson being in on the first last Saturday at Montreal. The assist gave Ortmeyer three points (2g-1a) in the last four outings.
After securing the 4-1 lead, the Predators looked content to hang back and focus almost exclusively on defense. But, it came back to bite them at 16:44, when Getzlaf cut in shorthanded and roofed one past Mason.
Discipline became an issue for the Ducks down the stretch though, and a pair of quick penalties gave Nashville more than a minute of five-one-three time, dooming any comeback.
Chris Mason was solid in net against the Ducks, stopping 21 shots for his eighth victory of the season.
“They are fairly physical, even there scorers,” Trotz said. “We just talked about maintaining our discipline. We said we could frustrate them by maintaining our discipline and we did. It is very easy to react, and that is what they do sometimes. When things aren’t going their way they try to suck you into a more physical game and sometimes take more penalties, which they did tonight.”
Nashville finished win one power-play goal on eight attempts, while Anaheim was fruitless on four tries.
“They are a real physical team – they come at you and finish a lot of their checks,” Fiddler said. “They are the Stanley Cup champs for a reason and we just wanted to keep going at them. It carried over from the first to the second and third, so we just need to take a day to rest up, and get ready for Detroit.”
The Predators play their third of four straight home games when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night at the Sommet Center. It is the second of four visits for the Wings, and third of eight 2007-08 matchups. Tickets are still available by calling (615) 770-PUCK, logging onto ticketmaster.com or nashvillepredators.com and by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office located in the arena tower.
GAME NOTES: Nashville scratched Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein and Scott Nichol from the lineup, while Anaheim sat Brian Sutherby, Drew Miller and Kent Huskins… With an assist tonight, Ryan Suter has five points (1g-4a) in seven games… Marek Zidlicky took sole possession of the defensemen points lead (13) with his first-period assist… Nashville has won four of its last five meetings against the Ducks at the Sommet Center… The Preds are 12-5-2 since Oct 25, outscoring opponents in the third period by a 30-17 margin in that span… The penalty kill has extinguished 17 of the last 19 chances against… Vernon Fiddler was a team-best plus-two… Dan Hamhuis logged a team-high 25:08, while Greg Zanon registered a game-high four hits… Jason Arnott was the best Predator in the face-off circle on Saturday, winning 12 of 18 draws (67%)… The next meeting between these teams is Jan. 7 in Anaheim.
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