For the first 20 minutes of Thursday night’s game, things looked very encouraging for the Nashville Predators. Just over two minutes into the opening period, they had already put two goals on the scoreboard thanks to Paul Gaustad and Craig Smith and things looked very good in their quest to take down the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL’s best team to this point in the season.
The Ducks came into the game winners of 14 of their last 15 games.
For the remainder of the first, Nashville maintained possession of the puck and gave little room to Anaheim’s high-scoring top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Matt Beleskey.
But then the second period happened.
The space that Getzlaf, Perry, and Beleskey lacked in the first was plentiful in the middle frame. Turnovers occurred, stretch passes were connecting and leading to odd-man rushes. And those odd-man rushes led to scoring chances, chances that world-class forwards like Getzlaf and Perry don’t miss out on very often.
“They are a team that can capitalize,” team captain Shea Weber said. “They’ve got a lot of skill on that first line and they can turn turnovers into goals really quick.”
Less than a minute into the second, Getzlaf beat Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec on the short side with a wrister from the left circle. He struck again at 4:36 with another wrister, again to the short side.
“I think in the first, we were detailed, getting pucks out and getting them in,” Nick Spaling said. “The second period was a lot of turnovers. We weren’t doing the same thing so they countered and we knew they were a good transition team.”
Rich Clune scored at 5:31 and his second of the season looked like it could stem the Anaheim momentum, but Perry answered back less than a minute later to tie things up.
Late in the second, Gabriel Bourque was whistled for a holding penalty, his second such infraction of the game. The second penalty occurred in the offensive zone though, and penalties like that often end up in the back of your net.
Just 15 seconds prior to the expiration of Bourque’s penalty, noted Predator killer Teemu Selanne hopped on a rebound in the left circle and banged it home to cap Anaheim’s four-goal second period.
“It was a turnover in the real critical areas,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “I always say ten feet outside the blue lines on both ends, that’s a real important area where you can dictate where the game is going to go.”
Adding to Trotz’s frustration was that the play was one they showed to the team during their video sessions Thursday morning.
“We had that penalty pretty well killed,” Trotz said. “We just had to seal the ice on that one play. We talked about it all morning. We showed three clips on it this morning. We didn’t get the ice sealed and they scored with 15 seconds in that penalty.”
Nashville had a couple of opportunities on the power play in the third, but they could not cash one in to tie the game. Shea Weber had the best opportunity when his shot from the left side got through Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen, but trickled wide of the net.
After an off day Friday, the Predators have a rare home back-to-back set this weekend with Ottawa in town Saturday followed by Minnesota Sunday.