(Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators start off their three game California road trip horribly at the Honda Center in Anaheim by losing to the Ducks, 5-1. The Predators didn’t show up or look interested for a majority of the game.
From the start of the opening faceoff, it was all Ducks from then on out with just a few spits of chances generated by the Predators. By the end of the first, it was 3-0 in favor of the home team. “We dug ourselves a big hole,” said head coach Barry Trotz.
The players in the Preds’ dressing room are not pleased with their performance Wednesday night and are certainly disappointed in themselves. “We’re not happy [with our performance], we’re actually kind of pissed off about it,” said center Paul Gaustad who returned to the lineup Wednesday.
Anaheim’s 5-1 victory earned them a sweep over Nashville in their season series. The first two games ended in a shootout.
The Ducks came out strong in the first, not backing down. It took less than three minutes for Anaheim to take an early lead in the game. Emerson Etem, who was recalled by the Ducks the night before, stole the puck away from Pekka Rinne behind the Nashville net. Etem passed the puck to Nick Bonino alone in the slot, who scored on an empty net.
Then came the Kyle Palmieri show a minute later. Palmieri scored his first of the game on a breakaway by getting around captain Shea Weber and driving towards the net, where he was able to put the puck around Rinne's outstretched leg. Later in the first at 16:57, Corey Perry found Palmieri alone in the slot from the corner, who was able to redirect the puck past Rinne to give his team a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
After a horrific first period where nothing went right for his team, Barry Trotz went to the dressing room boiling with anger. “I had a good stern talk,” said Trotz. “We have some guys who are not manning up. This is a man’s game. This is about pride.”
Palmieri finished off his natural hat trick with a goal 1:07 in the second period on the power play. A tic-tac-toe goal set up by Ryan Getzlaf and Perry gave Palmieri an easy backdoor goal. Following the goal, hats flew on the ice, while Rinne broke his stick in half out of frustration.
Craig Smith gave the Predators their first and only goal of the night 9:27 in. Rich Clune’s hard forecheck setup the play. Clune passed the puck to Kevin Klein, who gave Smith a feed cutting toward the net to cut the lead to 4-1 at that point. Nashville seemed to have a jump in their step after the goal, but that didn’t last long.
After a weak goaltender interference call on Clune, the Ducks were able to capitalize on the power play forty seconds remaining. Saku Koivu scored off a rebound from a shot by Francois Beauchemin at the point. That goal allowed Anaheim to regain their four goal lead before the period ended.
The third period was scoreless as Chris Mason came into the net for a pulled Rinne. Mason stopped all seven shots that came his way.
Anaheim ended up winning the game after back-and-forth play by defeating Nashville 5-1.
Line Up Report
#35 Pekka Rinne*
#30 Chris Mason
#30 Viktor Fasth
Predators Scratches: #24 W Matt Halischuk and #75 D Hal Gill (upper body)
Ducks Scratches: #6 D Ben Lovejoy and #25 W Brad Staubitz
The “Goose” returns: Paul Gaustad returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with an injury. As of late, the Predators have been missing Gaustad because he is a key contributor to the faceoff winning category. His injury didn’t affect his faceoff abilities thought, as the “Goose” went 15 for 19 of the night in the faceoff circle.
His first shift back wasn’t ideal as the Ducks’ Nick Bonino scored the first goal of the game while he was on the ice. “It is always good to get back to playing,” said Gaustad. “Not exactly what I wanted my first game back to be though.”
Gaustad finished the night with a -2 in +/- and 14:46 of ice time.
Failure to launch: No question about it, Nashville was horrible to start the game Wednesday night. It took less than four minutes into the game before the Ducks had a strangle hold on the game by scoring two goals.
The Predators were severely outplayed in the first period and were not ready to play hockey. It took a while before the Preds were able to get their legs under them, but by the time it happened, the game was essentially over with Anaheim having a 3-0 lead.
Poor Pekka Rinne was forced to be pulled during the second intermission because his team mates in front of him were leaving him out to dry by not covering the players cutting backdoor. There was too many times the tic-tac-toe passing worked for Anaheim because the Nashville defense faltered.
Smith, Clune have nice performances: Nashville forwards Craig Smith and Richard Clune had their best games of the season Wednesday night, even in the midst of a terrible team performance against the Ducks. Smith, who scored the lone goal for the Predators, wouldn’t have been able to score if it wasn’t due to the hard work Clune did to generate offense through the forecheck.
Clune wasn’t afraid all night to put the puck on net, whether it was quality or not, or crash to check and see for a rebound left by Viktor Fasth. The gritty forward had 11:33 of ice time and had an assist on the only Nashville goal.
Even though the offensive productivity wasn’t there for the Preds, Smith was able to generate just enough not to be completely embarrassed by scoring a goal. His goal was long awaited for as throughout the season, he has been generating scoring chance after scoring chance and only being able have three on the year.
Hopefully, this goal by Smith starts a trend in his play because Barry Trotz knows his team will need any scoring he can get.
Goals and Assists
1-0 ANA: Nick Bonino – Etem at 2:48 in the 1st
2-0 ANA: Kyle Palmieri – Perry and Getzlaf at 3:49 in the 1st
3-0 ANA: Kyle Palmieri (2) – Perry (2) and Getzlaf (2) at 16:57 in the 1st
4-0 ANA: PP Kyle Palmieri (3) – Perry (3) and Getzlaf (3) at 1:07 in the 2nd
4-1 ANA: Craig Smith – Klein and Clune at 9:27 in the 2nd
5-1 ANA: PP Saku Koivu – Ryan and Beauchemin at 19:20 in the 2nd
My Three Stars of the Game
1. Kyle Palmieri: Hat-trick
2. Corey Perry: 3 Assists
3. Craig Smith: Goal, One of the best games he’s played all season