Winless in their last five games, the Anaheim Ducks looked to right the ship against the Nashville Predators, but two early goals and a series of defensive miscues would leave them frustrated and in search of answers.
After Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf complained to reporters about Nashville agitator Jordin Tootoo, Predators head coach Barry Trotz suggested Getzlaf should go out and take care of it on the ice rather than try to play games with the media.
Unfortunately for the Ducks, it seems that Getzlaf, and the rest of his squad, failed to take the memo to heart as they attempted to break out of a five-game skid that began with a shutout loss to these very Predators in Nashville on October 29th.
Before the sparse midweek crowd at the Honda Center had finished sitting down, Nashville took a 1-0 lead when rookie Craig Smith continued his impressive rookie campaign by driving to the net and beating Jonas Hiller cleanly with a quick wrist shot from just outside of the crease near the 1:30 mark. It the fourth time this season that the Ducks had allowed the first goal in the first three minutes of play. Worse, Anaheim would find themselves almost immediately on the penalty kill afterwards when Andrew Gordon was called for a boarding minor on Jack Hillen a few seconds later.
The Ducks used the kill to help settle themselves down in front of Jonas Hiller, but Trotz sensed their brittle resolve and encouraged his team to go for the throat. Keeping up the pressure, Colin Wilson created a turnover right in front of the Anaheim net, spinning around and sending the puck up to Patric Hornqvist as he battled around Saku Koivu and slapped the puck past an unprepared Jonas Hiller to give the Preds a two goal lead. The goal would also extend the Swedish winger's goal scoring streak to seven straight games, setting a team record.
For fifteen more minutes the Predators played a textbook example of defensively responsible yet opportunistic hockey, the trademark of the organization, even earning another power play opportunity but quickly negating it when Martin Erat was whistled down for a high stick.
With under a minute to go, the Ducks broke into the Nashville zone on a rush. The puck came back to up top to Cam Fowler, who loaded up and fired with traffic in front of the net, tucking his shot just under the crossbar to beat Rinne and cut the lead in half just before the end of the period.
Anaheim hoped to pull themselves even when Tootoo was sent to the box early in the second period for a high stick on Corey Perry, but they had no answers for the Nashville PK, particularly Pekka Rinne, who made a pair of bang-bang saves on Teemu Selanne in close.
Midway through the second period,the Ducks went back to the power play with Craig Smith in the box for hooking. They turned up their attack and finally started looking like a team with a few days rest ,compared to a Predators team who had taken on Los Angeles the previous evening.
But another miscue would cost Anaheim. Getzlaf fanned on a pass near the top of the Nashville zone, allowing Martin Erat to chase down the bouncing puck and tear in alone on Jonas Hiller. With no other options, Lubomir Visnovsky was was able to get his stick up around Erat's waist to foul his shot, slashing at his shooting arm. The Czech winger was awarded a penalty shot, which he converted with a top corner shot as boos rained down from the Anaheim faithful.
Failing to convert on the remaining power play, the Ducks continued to look for a crack in the Nashville wall. They found one when Bobby Ryan took the puck from behind the Nashville net as Corey Perry camped out in front, firing at Rinne's legs and creating a rebound. Perry whacked it back into the crease before a pinching Francois Beauchemin pounded it through a gap in the Finnish netminder's outstretched leg pads to bring it back to a one goal game.
That lasted until the start of the third period when the Predators once again struck early, this time as Colin Wilson beat Koivu to the puck in the corner. He sent a pass up to a waiting Craig Smith at the slot for a glove-side one-timer.
Despite Anaheim outshooting the Predators 11-8 in the period, it was the Predators who kept the majority of the pressure on the Ducks and forced repeated turnovers, breaking their momentum until Hiller was pulled for an extra attacker. Rinne stymied the late rush, extending the Ducks' losing streak to six as the Predators return home after a very successful 3-1-1 road trip.