Last season the Anaheim Ducks were able to survive all too often poor performances in second periods with dynamic offense to rally in the final frame.
For a scoring-challenged team at the start of the 2015-16 season it was too much to overcome, as the Ducks opened their five-game road trip with a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau elected to reward Anton Khudobin for a solid performance in the win Sunday against the Wild with the first start of the road trip. Khudobin stopped 24 shots, but allowed a couple goals he'd probably like back. Really, the team as a whole would probably like another crack at the second period, as they were outshot 13-6 and out-chanced 10-2 leading to a 3-0 deficit at its conclusion.
Nashville opened the scoring 3:40 in to the second as Mattias Ekholm made a stretch pass along the near boards that Austin Watson chipped towards center ice. He won the race to the puck, and as Cam Fowler came up empty on a diving poke check attempt lead a 2-on-1 in to the zone up the far wall. A well-saucered centering feed to the top of the crease was redirected home by Eric Nystrom, and Tim McGraw belted over the sound system to the delight of the locals for the first time.
The next two goals took advantage of mistakes by Khudobin, as second after Ryan Getzlaf returned from a hooking minor the Ducks got caught with four defenders below the face off dots. It allowed Ryan Ellis to skate to the near dot, and blast a slapshot through Khudobin, who got caught too deep in the net moving post to post, and got his right skate caught in the net as he dropped to the butterfly leaving enough room for the shot to squeeze through. Mike Ribeiro made it 3-0 three minutes before intermission, catching Khudobin leaving the near post early after an attempted slap pass bounced back to him, and allowed him to fire a slap shot home short side.
Jiri Sekac scored the first Anaheim power play goal of the season with it 4-0 following an Ekholm partial break that he finished. With Barret Jackman sitting for slashing, the puck bounced off the heel of Sekac behind the net to Ryan Kesler, who found the Czech with time in the slot to snap home his first of the season. Nashville completed the scoreline with a power play goal by Colin Wilson with 1:42 to play, finding plenty of time and space in the slot and ripping a home under the bar to the blocker side.
Corey Perry continued to be snake bit to start the season, denied by Rinne on a wrister from the far circle after Fowler found him on a stretch pass, and having the door shut on him at the top of the crease off a Patrick Maroon centering feed. Line combinations were fluid as the game went along, Boudreau trying desperately to find a grouping that could capture and sustain some offensive pressure.
Nashville ended the game with more scoring chances at even strength as well as all situations, and again exploiting Kevin Bieksa who finished with the worst unblocked shot attempt differential amongst defensemen at -4 while being on ice for all four of the Predators even strength goals.
The Ducks have a day off before facing the Minnesota Wild , who extended the Columbus Blue Jackets' winless start with a 3-2 win tonight, on Saturday at the XCel Energy Center at 3 PM PT.