It’s safe to say that very people expected the Nashville Predators to be this bad halfway through the season. Given their positioning near the bottom of the Central Division playing against an even worse Anaheim Ducks team, last night’s game wasn’t exactly a surprise.
The Predators have had the Ducks’ number the last few years, with contrasting play styles contributing to Nashville’s success. It’s a new season and a new Ducks team, however. Anaheim may not be good, but it’s not because they’re the slow, lumbering bruisers that defined their identity over the last decade. Last night showed the kind of play the new Ducks are capable of: fast-paced, high-event hockey.
The first period might have been Anaheim’s best of the season. The tone for the game as set right off the opening draw after Nic Deslauriers and Austin Watson dropping the gloves right off the opening draw. Though they only scored one goal on an Adam Henrique backhand through traffic after some hard work by top lineman Daniel Sprong, the Ducks had a whopping 31 shot attempts while only giving up 10 to the Predators. 19 of those attempts were good for dangerous scoring chances to boot. Nashville backup goaltender Juuse Saros kept his team in it as long as he could considering they had played the night before in Los Angeles.
Despite giving up a goal to Watson in the final minute of the period, the Ducks could mark down that first period as a triumph.
The second period saw Anaheim go down 2-1 on a Craig Smith tally, and it seemed that the boys in orange had reverted to their usual flat-footed ways.
That lasted all of about eight minutes.
Cam Fowler continued his career season by taking the puck down between the circles and fired a pinpoint wrister through two Nashville defenseman into the top right corner of the net to tie the game at two. Fowler is arguably one of the top five technically skilled skaters in the league, and things like this happen when he uses it in the offensive zone.
The Ducks would take the lead just two minutes later when Ducks fandom collectively exploded after Daniel Sprong put home a rebound on the power play for his first of the season. I’m pretty sure a massive angry mob will form outside Honda Center if the young Dutchman is sent back to San Diego anytime soon.
Anaheim doubled their lead again on a power play that ranks 11th in the NHL over the last two weeks. Safe to say their special teams issues might have been fixed. Sam Steel got a cross-ice seam pass from Ryan Getzlaf and one-timed it off the skate of Henrique and into the net. I have been trying to avoid using the term “luck” this season when I can for a multitude of reasons, but there’s no avoiding it in this case. However, to be lucky you need to be good, and this goal was a perfect example of that.
The third period turned into a completely different game, unfortunately for Anaheim. Craig Smith and Orange County-native Rocco Grimaldi tied the game up within a shot span to make John Gibson wonder what went wrong and wipe out much of the domination the Ducks had carried up until that point. They were able to hang on for overtime, however.
After the game failed to be decided in extra time, everyone’s favorite skills competition became the endgame. Initial goals from Filip Forsberg and Ondrej Kase gave way to a 10 round shootout. In what may be one of the best moments of the season so far, captain Ryan Getzlaf took to the ice to absolutely thunderous cheers from the home crowd. Skating in, Getzlaf ripped the puck over the shoulder of Sarros and under the bar for the walk-off shootout win for Anaheim.
Next up: Anaheim takes on the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00 PT Tuesday at Honda Center.
By The Numbers
3. Daniel Sprong
2. Adam Henrique
1. Ryan Getzlaf