It’s a statement that may seem overused this time of year, but the Nashville Predators knew this was a “must-win” game in order to stay in the wild card hunt for the playoffs. Coming into Nashville was a struggling Anaheim Ducks team that had lost three in a row. In a game that saw some very unlucky bounces, the Anaheim Ducks capitalized on bad puck luck for the Predators, winning 5-2.
Even with the loss, the Nashville Predators go into the break only four points out of the wild card spot. Patric Hornqvist still found positives in Saturday’s game and how they can come back after the Olympic break to make a run.
The first period began with a bit of excitement as early on, Carter Hutton got caught playing the puck which turned into a scoring opportunity for the Ducks. In turn, Patric Hornqvist found a bouncing puck right in front of Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller, but was not able to make good contact with it.
At 6:08 of the first, the Predators were put on the power play when Daniel Winnik hooked Craig Smith as he was driving to the net. The power play was uneventful, but included Ryan Ellis making a wonderful stop on a short-handed two-on-one attempt.
Nashville’s plan of attack seemed to be driving to the net and it worked. At 11:35, Victor Bartley took a shot from the point which generated a beautiful rebound that was promptly knocked in by Viktor Stalberg for his seventh of the season. Of note on this goal was that Simon Moser recorded his first NHL point by registering an assist.
“Obviously, going to paint helps,” said Viktor Stalberg on his goal. “The puck has been not really bouncing my way. I don’t know how many post and cross-bars I’ve had this year, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
“I thought he was a good factor tonight,” spoke Barry Trotz on Stalberg’s performance. “I thought the Wilson line was pretty effective tonight.”
The Nashville attacked completely frustrated Anaheim and immediately following the goal, the Predators were once again put on the power play when Bryan Allen went to the box for cross checking. The power play generated amazing chances and seemed to gel much better than the first. Even though the Ducks killed off the penalty, Nashville took the momentum from the goal and the power play and continued to apply pressure, leading Anaheim in shots 13-6 with two minutes left in the period.
In a game that seemed to be already full of weird bounces, the Ducks were able to get one the board when Ryan Getzlaf softly directed at puck at the net that got tipped by Roman Josi and trickled past Carter Hutton. The goal was Getzlaf’s 28th of the season.
“Yeah, we had some tough bounces that hurt us, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” spoke Shea Weber on the weird bounces of the game.
The entirety of the game had been in favor of the Predators, seeing as how they hit the 20-shot mark with 14 minutes still left in the second. In a turn of momentum however, Mike Fisher took a double minor for high sticking at 8:34, putting the Ducks on an extended power play. Nashville was able to kill off the first half of the penalty, but another bad bounce for the Predators turned into a goal for Anaheim. Just to the right of Carter Hutton, Corey Perry was attempting to make a backhand pass to Francois Beauchemin. Instead of the pass going through, the puck bounced off of Victor Bartley’s skate and into the net.
Later on in the second, David Legwand was sent to the box for a holding call at 14:23. The Predators were able to kill it off, but while Nashville was in their zone after the penalty, Rich Clune and Bryan Allen dropped the gloves.
Nearing the end of the second period, the Ducks put Nashville on the power play. Luca Sbisa was called for hooking at 19:41. Time expired in the second with the Predators leading in shots 27-15, but down 2-1 on the scoreboard. They would begin the third period on the power play.
At 1:05 of the third, Nashville was able to tie the game when Mike Fisher received a pass in the slow from David Legwand.
It did not take long for the Ducks to answer. At 4:51, Hampus Lindholm shot the puck from the point, and with lots of traffic in front of Hutton, Emerson Etem tipped the puck in for his seventh goal of the season.
Anaheim was then able to add to their lead off a turnover by Ryan Ellis in the defensive zone. Daniel Winnick and Mathieu Perrault jumped on the turnover and at 8:04, Perrault notched goal number four for the Ducks, giving them a 4-2 lead.
“[Ryan Ellis] has to get rid of it quicker,” said Barry Trotz on the turnover that led to Anaheim’s fourth goal. “A couple of our forwards turned their back on the puck. He put it into an empty space where they just jumped on it.”
The ice opened up at 15:48 when Corey Perry and Patric Hornqvist took coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors. In doing do, Barry Trotz pulled Carter Hutton to give the Predators an extra attacker. Nashville was able to generate some chances and took a timeout at 16:36 to gather their thoughts. Following the timeout, the Predators generated some opportunities, but Jonas Hiller was up to task, stopping every one of them.
Ryan Getzlaf put the final nail in the coffin at 19:24 when he tallied the empty net with a long shot. After a fairly strong game from Nashville, they still lose to Anaheim off some very unlucky bounces 5-2.
“We just have to keep playing the same way and fight hard every game,” said Roman Josi looking at the rest of the season. “From now on, every game is going to be a playoff game, and we just have to make a push.
Below are post game thoughts from Barry Trotz. He also speaks on the rehabilitation of Pekka Rinne and his plans for the Olympic break.