Final Score: Ducks 5, Predators 2
First Period Recap: For the first five minutes, the only real action came as a result of Preds goalie Carter Hutton being very aggressive in playing the puck, but even those weren't as dangerous as they could have been. The game really opened up with the first penalty of the game, a hooking minor called against Daniel Winnik.
The Ducks actually had the best chance while shorthanded when Andrew Cogliano and Matt Beleskey went in on a 2-on-1 but were thwarted by a great sliding play from Ryan Ellis to get his stick into the passing lane, but Hiller also had to make a couple of good saves.
About three minutes after the kill Nashville opened the scoring. Victor Bartley took a shot from the point that was redirected nicely on net. Hiller did well to get a pad on it but Victor Stalberg was there to chip the rebound over the Swiss netminder. Unfortunately as the puck floated over him, Hiller reached back and knocked it into his own net.
Nashville took the momentum of that goal and had a strong next shift which ended Bryan Allen cross checking Rich Clune (who had a rough night overall) away from the play for going hard to the net. The ensuing PK for the Ducks was atrocious. They didn't get to any loose pucks, Preds were all over the crease and getting shots through. The only semi-decent part of the kill was Hiller and he was fantastic.
Just as Allen was released from the box the puck came to him and he sent Cogliano on a 2-on-1 with Jacob Silfverberg. Cogs shot for the far pad creating a rebound for Silfverberg and Hutton made the save of the game to keep Nashville in the lead for the moment.
It was starting to look like a carbon copy of the past few games where the Ducks couldn't get anything going offensively. More than the shutdown effort we saw against Dallas and Columbus, this time it was due in large part to the Predators controlling the puck in the Ducks zone and the Ducks being completely scattered defensivley. That is, until Ryan Getzlaf flung a puck toward Corey Perry on the back post and it deflected in off of Roman Josi to tie the game.
The period ended with Nashville doubling up the Ducks on shots 14-7, but even where it counts.
Second Period Recap: At the start of the second, the Ducks continued to scramble around the defensive zone, forcing Hiller to come up with more very good saves. About three minutes in, Shea Weber got hit in the face with a puck off the stick of Dustin Penner. After the play Weber's Olympic teammate, Corey Perry checked to see if he was alright. Clearly he was, since he stayed on the ice for the next shift.
Speaking of that next shift, it finally gave the Ducks some momentum as the PPG line was firing on all cylinders. Perry and Penner each had chances off of rebounds, but Hutton was up to the task.
Eight and a half minutes into the period Mike Fisher went off for a high sticking double minor against Winnik behind the Preds' net. It took a while for the Ducks to get set up on the PP, but with about 20 seconds left on the first penalty they finally did. Perry had a golden chance at the side of the net, but chose to try and get it to Francois Beauchemin on the far post instead and was stopped by the stick of Hutton.
During the second minor to Fisher, Perry had a very similar chance at the side of the net, but this time when he tried zipping it across the crease it deflected off the skate of Bartley and into the top of the net. Another lucky goal gave the Ducks their first lead in three and a half games.
The Ducks went on the power play next and it was another wide open affair with chances at both ends. Eric Nystrom nearly got free twice for shorthanded opportunities, but Cam Fowler stopped him (probably getting away with a penalty on at least one).
With just under three minutes remaining Hutton came up big once again, stopping Beleskey and Winnik in close and as the whistle sounded Rich Clune and Bryan Allen dropped the gloves. Decision goes to Allen as he landed a couple of heavy hits with a major reach advantage.
The Ducks had evened the play dramatically in the second, but that didn't mean the Preds were without offensive chances. They seemed to be looking for tips on all of their shots, and did well to create traffic, but Hiller was just better. Hampus Lindholm was doing a great job defensively all game, but one of his best plays was racognizing Patric Hornqvist in the middle of the ice and knocking him right off the puck late in the second.
In the dying seconds of the period Luca Sbisa was on a delayed call for hooking and adding insult to injury (or vice versa) the whistle came when Cogliano was hit in the face by a puck. The penalty carried over to the third and Cogs did return to the game later.
Third Period Recap: Nashville was clinical with their slightly abbreviated power play to start the final frame. Fisher found a pocket right in the slot and was fed a perfect pass by David Legwand for the one timer to tie the game back at twos.
While they were still announcing the Fisher goal, Patrick Maroon nearly gave the Ducks the lead back with a maniacal shift. He picked up a rebound off of a Lindholm point shot, and battled it at the side of the net, eventually squeezing it between Hutton and the post into an empty crease. Hutton dove back to get his arm behind the puck before Maroon could get around to the other side of the net for the loose puck.
Lindholm was fantastic all game, but the peak was his point shot getting through a ton of traffic and past Hutton to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. Cogs and Emerson Etem were both in the vicinity (as well as several Preds D-men) and the goal was officially credited to Etem, but according to Hazy on the post game show, Etem went to the scorers table and said that he didn't touch the puck. As of this writing it's still Etem's goal, but I don't think Hampus minds.
About three minutes later Mathieu Perreault gave the Ducks an insurance marker. Perreault forced a turnover with a beautiful stick lift, the puck got to Winnik and he returned it to Matty P for the tap in. This seems like as good a time as any to point out that the reffing was questionable in this game. The Preds fans definitely felt hard done by and justifiably so in some cases, but that particular one was nowhere near a hook, as the fans seemingly wanted.
Speaking of questionable reffing, with five minutes remaining in the game Perry and Hornqvist were given coincidental minors for roughing, and it was an absolute joke. Perry tapped Hornqvist's stick away from the play and headed off for a change. Hornqvist confronted him, they exchanged pleasantries with minimal contact and both went off for some reason. File it under game management, I guess.
The interesting thing that resulted though, was that Barry Trotz pulled Hutton with over four minutes left in the game, to give the Preds a 5-on-4 advantage. The Ducks had numerous attempts at the empty net from all over the ice, including a sequence in which Preds D-men blocked two goals in a row from the blueline without knowing it, but the one that counted was a perfectly weighted backhand saucer
pass shot from Getzlaf in the corner that landed dead on the middle of the net. Maybe Getzy is actually heading to Sochi for curling?
That made it a 5-2 final for the Ducks to hit the Olympic Break on a positive note.
As they made their way to the dressing rooms, Clune tried to start some shenanigans and ended up with a slashing minor and a 10 minute misconduct at 20 minutes of the third period. We'll chalk it up to a VERY frustrating night for Clune.
The Good: The Ducks got back to what they were doing through the unreal stretch of December and January where they would start slow, hang in thanks to Hiller and then just rack up the goals in the second and third to win a game where they weren't necessarily at their best.
The Bad: As we said over and over again while the Ducks were relying on comeback wins throughout December and January, it's not the best way to ensure continued success, especially in the end of the season and playoffs, but at this point they needed it badly.
The Ugly: The first two Ducks goals were very ugly, in a good way. Things hadn't been clicking for the Ducks offensively for three games, but thanks to those two lucky goals they were able to get the monkey off their backs and start scoring again.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Cogliano - Dude was flying as usual and created a bunch of chances, as well as causing chaos in front of Hutton on the game winner.
3rd MVD: Hampus Lindholm - Even if he's never officially credited with the game winner, he had a huge hand in it. Also had an assist on the first goal of the game and a strong night defensively.
2nd MVD: Ryan Getzlaf - Ended up with two goals and an assist. It wasn't exactly one of the games where he completely took it over, but he played a ton, 24:57 in fact, and was a factor in all situations.
1st MVD: Jonas Hiller - Hiller was under siege in the first and made some outstanding saves. Just like when the Ducks were at their best earlier in the season he kept them in the game until the offense could take over.
Next Game: Friday, February 28th at 7pm versus the St. Louis Blues where we'll more than likely be welcoming multiple Olympic medalists home.