First Period Recap:
Anaheim's lineup for the first period required some last minute jumbling after captain Ryan Getzlaf aggravated a lower-body injury during warmups. With that late tweak, Getzlaf fell onto the scratch list for the night alongside Ben Lovejoy and Nashville's Olli Jokinnen.
Tim Jackman drew back into the game to play alongside Patrick Maroon and Devante Smith-Pelly, but that isn't the only line that felt scrambled. Coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to use a blindfold and a dartboard to throw the other lines together. They shook out with Corey Perry alongside Rickard Rakell and Rene Bourque, Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg flanking Ryan Kesler, while Nate Thompson centered Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri.
With the captain, and team point-leader, out of the lineup someone else would have to step up, and that someone was Silfverberg tonight. Silfy landed on Anaheim's penalty killing unit, which was tested early after Eric Brewer was called for hooking less than two minutes into the game. Silfverberg turned into a one-man circus, not only helping keep the puck away from Frederik Andersen, but managed to catch Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne off-guard and pot a gorgeous backhanded shot for a shorthanded goal and a 1-0 lead early. Rinne was clearly rusty, mishandling the puck in an attempt to keep the play alive on his team's powerplay, only to find Silfverberg ready and hungry to score the first goal of the game.
Roughly 10 minutes later in the first Sami Vatanen would quiet the Nashville crowd down even further, with a point shot that ricocheted off a Predator player's shoulder, redirecting the puck just enough to hit the net behind Rinne giving Anaheim a 2-goal lead after just the first period of play.
Although the Ducks were outshot 8-10 in the first frame, they managed to kill off two penalties, and tallied both a shorthanded goal and an even strength goal giving them plenty of positives to focus on heading back to the locker room for the first intermission.
Second Period Recap:
Anaheim opened the second period with 56-seconds remaining in a powerplay thanks to a late slashing penalty called against James Neal. Just nine seconds into the middle frame Anaheim would find themselves on the better side of a 5-on-3 when Paul Gaustad was called for interference. So began the period of undisciplined play.
In the second period alone Nashville would find themselves shorthanded on three separate occasions, including a delay of game infraction committed by netminder Rinne less than two-minutes into the period. UnfortunatelyAnaheim couldn't capitalize on any of the man-advantage opportunities, feeding into a common pattern of this season - inability to convert powerplay opportunities into powerplay goals.
Perry had a near-goal roughly 90 seconds in, however Rinne showed that he wasn't all rust, managing a sprawling stunner of a save keeping the Preds within two goals. Just one second into even-strength play, Beleskey widened the gap a bit further, scoring on a snazzy wrist shot with Rakell and Francois Beauchemin tallying the assists.
Despite a solid performance when his team was killing penalties Rinne allowed two goals in less than 45 seconds, with Silfverberg tallying his second of the night shortly after Beleskey's goal. Cam Fowler's sharp wrist shot was redirected by Silfverberg and for the fourth time of the night, the puck hit net behind Rinne giving the Ducks an unexpected 4-0 lead less than halfway through the game.
The rest of the middle period seemed to become an interesting goaltending showcase with some highlight-reel saves seen at both ends of the ice, however other than another penalty committed by each team once the clock hit 0:00 the scoreboard still read 4-0.
Third Period Recap:
The third chapter of the game opened with an abbreviated stint of 4-on-4, followed by a 40-second Anaheim powerplay, however the Ducks came up without a powerplay goal, and without a shot on goal. Frederik Andersen managed to hold off the Predators despite several solid scoring chances, but that seemed to spark a trend that encompassed most of the third period.
Anaheim's first shot on goal in the closing frame was not until there was just 7:58 remaining in regulation. The California team would tally a despicable two shots on goal in the third period, the second of which was an empty-net goal off the stick of Perry.
Meanwhile, Nashville managed 24 shots in the last 20 minutes of the game, more than doubling their shot numbers from the first two periods combined. But still, Freddie stood tall, and fought like the beast he is- the monster we all have come to know and love, allowing only two goals on those 24 shots. Let's be real, the Anders Mountain put on a full goaltending clinic despite the team in front of him not facilitating his job much.
Exactly four minutes in, Nashville's Colin Wilson would score on an admittedly pretty feed from Victor Bartley, however that was not enough to shake up Freddie or throw him off his groove. With just over four minutes remaining in the game, Neal would score a powerplay goal, the only PPG of the night for either team, giving his team and the hometown fans just a touch of hope. But there was one big obstacle they were forgetting about: Andersen. I cannot get over how unbelievable Anaheim's netminder performed when facing the other top team in the West.
Nashville Coach Peter Laviolette proved he still believed in his team's chances to force extra minutes, pulling Rinne with 3:42 remaining in the third period. However, Perry would solidify the two-points for the Ducks with an empty net goal with 79 seconds remaining and his team leading 5-2.
The final horn sounded, signaling that the Anaheim Ducks had just ended taken sole possession of the top spot in the NHL with 74 points, by beating the Predators in Bridgestone Arena after Nashville had won their previous nine at home.
The Good: Depth Scoring - Anaheim saw an impressive eleven different players tally at least one point during the contest in Nashville, including five of the six defensmen. Rakell contributed with two assists on the night giving him a total of 12 points in his past 10 games played. Silfverberg scored his seventh and eighth goals, including his first shorthanded goal, of the season. All around, Anaheim made up for the absence of their point-leader captain beautifully with contributions from a wide variety of depth players.
The Bad: Powerplay - Despite four powerplay opportunities, Anaheim could not find a way to get the puck in behind Rinne with the extra attacker. Even with a 5-on-3 chance the Ducks came up dry. Though they managed to score three goals on 17 even strength shots and once on two shorthanded shots, they failed to score on their six powerplay shots, with every bid thwarted by Rinne.
The Ugly: 3rd Period - This should not be much of a surprise. I mean, come on. The Ducks only got two pucks toward the Nashville net and spent most of the final period in their own zone, scrambling defensively. The only Anaheim player who appeared to even show up to play in the third period was Andersen who stood on his head making saves and holding Anaheim's lead, however the rest of the team played a completely despicable final 20 minutes of hockey.