Final Score: Ducks 4, Predators 3
First Period Recap: For many years the Nashville Predators have been known as a team who play a heavily trap-based style that's ridiculously boring to watch but highly effective at shutting teams down. As such, they've never been much of an offensive powerhouse.
This was not the case when the puck dropped in this game. Not two minutes in, the Predators took a puck away from Mark Fistric and cycled it down low before passing it to Paul Gaustad, who was streaking to the front of the net. Neither Sami Vatanen nor Fistric, nor fellow center Nick Bonino stayed with him and as such Gaustad banged the puck by starter Frederik Andersen to give the Predators the early 1-0 lead. This one was in no way Andersen's fault; both Fistric and Vatanen were staring at passer Gabriel Borque, leaving Gaustad completely unchecked to score the goal.
A whole whopping 30 seconds later this already classic Anaheim Ducks first period got even worse when Craig Smith doubled the Nashville lead. After a puck got away from Hampus Lindholm, Smith and Matt Cullen went streaking into the Anaheim zone two-on-one. Despite Lindholm rushing back to try to get into position, Cullen put a beautiful pass right through Francois Beauchemin to the stick of Smith who tapped it past Andersen.
As you can probably guess, this was not Anaheim's most memorable night from a defensive effort. The Ducks have often times struggled with struggling units, and Nashville's offense this season has been pretty dreary (as is tradition), sitting at 25th in the NHL in goals per game. Naturally the Ducks made everybody watching wonder why.
Well a large reason why was the whopping seven giveaways the Ducks had in the first 20 minutes. It's been a massive reason for the Ducks slow starts is their inability to take care of the puck in the early stages of the game, and they surrender a good number of shots, chances, and nearly the entirety of the game's momentum as a result. And it's happening pretty much every game.
While this second goal finally made the Ducks realize they were playing hockey, the period didn't really turn too heavily in the Ducks favor. While they did manage to get several shot attempts of their own, the Predators did a stellar job clogging up shooting lanes and they blocked a ton of everything. Despite approximately 20 attempts in the period, the Ducks only got six through to Marek Mazanec. Seven of them were blocked by Predator skaters.
The good news for Anaheim is the game didn't get away from them and they got some decent time of their own throughout the remainder of the period.
Anaheim got a couple power plays in the first period as well, though the second one was extremely brief as Nick Bonino took a pretty crappy holding penalty and ended the second power play just 17 seconds after it started.
Six shots apiece through one period and the Ducks went into the locker room trailing 2-0.
Second Period Recap: The Preds started the first period fast, but the Ducks started the second even faster. And believe me when I say all hell broke loose.
After Corey Perry recovered a puck in the offensive zone, Matt Beleskey fed a sweet little backhand pass to Ryan Getzlaf, who rocketed a wrist shot past the blocker hand of Mazanec before he could even figure out the second period had started. Just 55 seconds in and the Ducks had pulled back within one.
Just before the five minute mark of the period Getzlaf did it again. After recovering a puck in their own end, the Ducks quickly turned up the ice and Beleskey left a drop pass for Getzlaf, who wristed one over Mazanec's glove to make it 2-2.
The Ducks didn't hold this, however. Anaheim allowed the Predators to establish their cycle in the zone relatively effortlessly on the next shift, and they quickly turned around and punished the Ducks for failing to win a battle for a loose puck. After pushing it to the front of the net, Rich Clune batted a deflected puck over the blocker hand of Andersen to make it 3-2.
Fifty-six seconds after that the Ducks pulled even again. Ryan Getzlaf recovered a puck at his own blue line and ripped a pin-point pass to Corey Perry waiting alone on the Predator blue line. Perry walked the puck in and let a blistering wrister go that appeared to beat Mazanec just over his glove hand.
So it took a few mathematicians some time and about seven slide rules to figure it out, but when the dust settled the game sat at 3-3. And it would stay that way for a little while this time too.
It took until past the 17-minute mark for the first penalty of the period to be called and it went to Gabriel Borque for grabbing Ben Lovejoy as the Ducks defenseman got a step and skated away from him 200 feet away from the Nashville net. Not a smart penalty.
And the Ducks power play, which had been 0-for-2 to this point finally broke through again. With the line of Matthieu Perreault, Patrick Maroon, and Teemu Selanne on the ice, the Ducks took their first lead of the night on the Ducks' signature extra-man set-play. The Ducks worked the puck to big-man Maroon in front of the net, who dished a backhand pass blindly through the crease to a streaking Teemu Selanne headed right to the far post. Everyone knows Teemu rarely misses an empty net, and thankfully this time he didn't. 4-3 Ducks.
The Ducks took that lead to the locker room along with an 18-8 shot advantage in the second period (and a widening Fenwick advantage).
Third Period Recap: The third period was far from boring. Both teams came out with the same mentality of "screw this whole defense thing," and traded chances back and forth for much of the period. However, the Predators got the far better of the possession. The Preds closed the Fenwick gap and got some stellar offensive zone time which led to some great chances.
Also shots. Lots of those. In fact 12 of them in the final frame for the hosts.
This is bolstered however by Anaheim taking two very ill-timed penalties in the frame. Thankfully the penalty kill kept the puck out, but really it did only that. The Predators earned seven of those shots with those two power plays, and made Freddy Andersen have to stand on his head to secure his first win since December 21st.
Ultimately, there was no scoring in the final frame, and the Ducks escaped with yet another come-from-behind win by a final score of 4-3. Final shots tallied 28-26 in favor of Anaheim.
The Good: Well the depth scoring went dry but the big line simultaneously took the load and carried the team to victory yet again. A pair from the captain, one from the super pest, and two points for their other winger on the night in Matt Beleskey. Someone is scoring on this team at all times, and it's driven every successful comeback this team has had this year (of which there have now been a metric buttload).
The Bad: Bad first periods again blah blah blah same story BUT WAIT I HAVE A POINT HERE. The Ducks were very careless with the puck in the first period, and in several situations in the third. When you're careless you need to win battles to recover pucks that get taken away, and Anaheim didn't do that too well tonight, particularly in the first and parts of the third period.
The Ugly: Defensive coverage wasn't great tonight. This goes back and is related to the whole being careless thing, but when you lose the puck you have to stick to your man, and numerous times the Predators got a man open because the Ducks didn't track him. Once again had this team been, say, San Jose or Boston, the Ducks probably would not have won this.
Next Game: Saturday, January 11th vs. Phoenix Coyotes