The Nashville Predators faced off against the Anaheim Ducks at the Bridgestone Arena in a contest of two teams that were evenly matched in personnel and on the scoreboard.
How evenly matched?
Once again, the two teams went to a shootout, and once again the Ducks came out with the win by a 3-2 score.
Although the Predators dropped this game, there were numerous positives. The Predators out shot the Ducks 34-22 and controlled the game for long stretches of time. Pekka Rinne had another solid game. The offense created some great scoring chances.
But once again a couple of breakdowns cost the Predators the victory.
The Predators were facing one of the hottest goalies in the NHL in Viktor Fasth, who was 8-0-1 coming into the contest, and they challenged him throughout the game. Fasth continued his strong play, making some excellent saves against the Predators.
The Predators opened the scoring at 13:31of the first period as David Legwand gathered in a rebound of a Jonathan Blum shot and jammed the puck five hole on Fasth from the top of the crease. Legwand had 6 shots on net and was a +2 along with his goal for the night. It is good to finally see Legwand get involved with the offense, as the Predators are going to need production from him.
The Ducks only had 6 shots in the first period, but most of them were from the low slot as the Predators defensive coverage broke down. The Ducks made the Predators pay for their lapses as Matt Belesky was left alone in the low slot and he rifled a shot past Rinne to tie the game at 17:31 of the first period.
The Predators would regain the lead at 9:31 of the second period as Shea Weber would notch his first goal of the year off a wrist shot from the blue line. The puck appeared to hit a Duck defender and re-directed past Fasth to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
The Ducks tied the game at 16:08 of the second period as Kyle Palmieri took a shot that was re-directed by Patrick Maroon, who was left alone at the front of the net.
Marty Erat had a great scoring chance as he got the puck alone in the low slot but was stopped by Fasth to keep the game tied.
The third period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Predators. They outshot the Ducks 9-5 and had some good chances but could not finish.
After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout.
The Ducks got scores from Nick Bonino in the first round, while David Legwand was stopped by Fasth.
Rinne stopped Andrew Cogliano in the second round while Craig Smith scored on the backhand off a sweet move.
Corey Perry scored in the third round, and Gabriel Bourque had the puck roll off his stick to give the Ducks the win.
* The line of Nick Spaling, Craig Smith, and Matt Halischuk was dynamic. Although they did not get on the scoresheet, they showed lots of jump and created some good scoring chances. The speed of this line presented problems for the Ducks all night. I especially liked the nose for the net that this line showed, and Craig Smith showed some good flashes of offense.
* Marty Erat needs to get his game untracked. Marty had two shots on goal and a great scoring chance that he could not finish. He has the talent to be a more effective scorer and the Predators need him to elevate his game.
* This was the best game of the season for David Legwand. He went to the net, created some space and scoring opportunities, and shot the puck. This is the kind of effort that Legwand needs to bring every night.
* The defense had a couple of breakdowns, and it cost the Predators. The first period saw the Predators leave Duck forwards alone in the low slot, and Rinne had to make some quality saves before Belesky finally got one past him. Overall, the effort was solid, limiting the potent Ducks offense, but the miscues were costly.
The Predators offense has shown some jump and has been getting the puck on net. The quality of chances tonight were very good. The Predators need this effort and mentality every night.
They just need to finish some of those chances.
With the shootout loss, Nashville is 7-3-5 and 19 points. They are 4th in the West and second in the Central Division.
The point is important. More important for the Predators is to build on this offensive effort that has been demonstrated the past few games.
Do that, and the points will come.
My three stars:
1. Viktor Fasth
2. Shea Weber
3. David Legwand
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.