After having been amongst the best players in analytic stats for the Anaheim Ducks in the early part of the season, Chris Stewart finally had his breakthrough performance on the scoresheet.
The burly forward had a goal and two assists as the Ducks scored the first three goals of the game, holding on over the final 40 minutes to top the Nashville Predators 4-2 on Sunday evening at Honda Center.
"We had a lot of energy to start the game. They came out and Freddie made three really great saves in the first two minutes, then Rakell got a really nice goal that (allowed our guys to exhale)," said head coach Bruce Boudreau on the Prime Ticket broadcast.
Stewart's line centered by Rickard Rakell with Jiri Sekac was Anaheim's best on the evening, helping to create three of the goals and getting the most consistent regular pressure in the offensive zone despite the Ducks being outshot 42-28 for the game. Frederik Andersen made 40 stops to earn his first win of the season, as Anaheim improved to 2-7-2 on the season.
"We determined coming in to this game we wanted to do everything we could do to score a goal early... You certainly get a good feeling and try and build off that, you get confident," Rakell said to Kent French on the Prime Ticket broadcast.
The first period was wide open, with the teams combining for 30 shots on goal. Andersen stood tall, making saves on eight of the first nine shots in the game, allowing Rakell to open the scoring. After Sekac's high slot shot went wide, Stewart jostled the puck free with a check that allowed Rakell to sweep behind the net, make a nice move along the goal line then backhand the puck past Carter Hutton 1:11 in to the period.
Within 12 second span later in the frame Anaheim opened a 3-0 advantage. First Rakell lead a rush in to the attack zone, swinging the puck behind the net to Stewart in the far corner, who quickly moved it low-to-high to Clayton Stoner at the point. A snapped feed across the blue line teed up an open Sami Vatanen, who skated down to the top of the right circle and hammered a slap shot home over the blocker of Hutton. Then Vatanen intercepted a clear at the red line, flipping the puck to Jakob Silfverberg who swung the puck to Andrew Cogliano up the near wall, who snapped the puck home to give Anaheim a 3-0 advantage they'd hold after one.
"It took a nice bounce off the boards for once for us, was able to snap it low blocker on him. It was a good shot, just happy to get one for the guys," said Cogliano on Prime Ticket.
Stewart scored his first goal as a Duck in the second period, as Rakell snapped a pass from the left point to Korbinian Holzer at the bottom of the right circle, springing the defenseman for a quick shot on net. The rebound kipped across the crease to Stewart at the near post, who made no mistake with the rebound. Nashville sandwiched the goal with a power play blast from Shea Weber, and a snap shot from Calle Jarnkrok from between the hashes that made the scoreline 4-2 after two.
The teams played a scoreless third with Anaheim content to sit back and defend, limiting the Predators to eight shots. After allowing 17 in each of the first two periods, the dialed-in play in the final frame resulted in fewer scoring chances against as well, allowing just eight in the third after allowing 24 through the first two periods.
"Even though they would've had possession in our zone we were keeping them to the outside. That's a very good hockey club, they're tough to defend against, but I thought we did a good job in the third," Boudreau said on Prime Ticket.
The Ducks were out-chanced 25-14 and out-attempted 59-34 at even strength for the game. Sekac left the game during the second period and did not return with a lower body injury.
Anaheim has two nights off before hosting the Florida Panthers on Wednesday at 7:30 PM.