The late game push that had been missing for the Anaheim Ducks in the early part of the season was there, but Pekka Rinne was simply better.
The Finnish goalie made 38 saves as the Nashville Predators hung on over the final two periods to upend the Ducks 3-2 Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
"He was an All Star goalie tonight, no doubt. He controls the puck so well, for us to get 40 shots the way he controls the puck is quite an accomplishment, but we've got to find a way to score goals when we need to score goals," said head coach Bruce Boudreau to Julie Stewart-Binks on Prime Ticket.
Rinne made 29 saves over the final two periods for the Predators, who the Ducks outshot 40-21 for the game, out-chanced 19-10 at even strength, and had a 9-5 edge in high danger chances at five on five.
Nashville opened the scoring on a power play goal by Shea Weber near the midway mark of the first period, cashing in on a five-on-three advantage with Nick Ritchie and Carl Hagelin each in the box for hooking minors. The blast from just beyond the far circle powered past the glove hand of starter Frederik Andersen for the 1-0 lead. Officiating was an early storyline in the game, as Nashville had a 3-0 edge in extra man advantages through the first 20 minutes despite some rough play both ways.
Rickard Rakell continued his strong start with a highlight reel goal to equalize just 1:14 later. Rakell received a pass from Cam Fowler along the far boards two strides from the Ducks defensive blue line and sped through the neutral zone, curling around the Nashville net and tucking the puck past a late-arriving right pad of Rinne to make it 1-1.
Unfortunately for the Ducks James Neal would catch Andersen by surprise with a knuckle-balling dump in from the blue line, which leaked through the legs for a 2-1 lead just 2:26 thereafter to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage they'd take to the locker room.
An early deflection second period goal by Miikka Salomaki spelled the end of Andersen's evening, as Mattias Ekholm's shot from the near point was chopped off the ice in front of the crease and the puck bounced in over the pad short side. Andersen made seven saves on 10 shots in 26:13 of action after having sat for the previous five days, giving way for Anton Khudobin who stopped all 11 shots he faced to keep Anaheim in striking distance.
After the Salomaki goal the Ducks began to dominate play, holding Nashville to just 21 shot attempts over the final 33:47 of play. Yet for attempting 48 shots after following behind by two, Anaheim struggled to solve Rinne despite several great opportunities. Hagelin was denied twice on a break away, while Corey Perry, Ritchie, and Ryan Kesler had notable chances stopped.
"If you get that kind of effort every game you're going to win an awful lot more games than you're gonna lose. Other than the first five minutes of the game where we were pretty ragged, I thought that we played a really good game," Boudreau said to Stewart-Binks.
Mike Santorelli was able to make it a one goal game with 14:27 to play, driving the net and finding the rebound after a spin move enabled Kevin Bieksa to shovel a backhand shot on goal. Santorelli was there to bang home the rebound to give the Ducks hope, but even with a power play Anaheim couldn't find a way to knock the leveling goal past Rinne.
"We did so many good things to build off of, unfortunately we put ourselves in a position in the first 10 games that these are games you have to win when you're playing like this," said Boudreau to Stewart-Binks.
Anaheim travels to the Sunshine State of Florida for their next two games, first facing the Florida Panthers on Thursday for a 4:30 PM PT puck drop.