By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators edged the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 on Thursday night in a huge Western Conference battle. Both Nashville and Anaheim were riding four-game winning streaks. The two teams were separated by one point. A win by Anaheim would have put the Ducks ahead of the Predators in the standings.
The Nashville Predators jumped to an early 3-0 lead. Sergei Kostitsyn opened the scoring at 2:04 of the game when Patric Hornqvist took a shot on goal that went slightly behind Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller. Kostitsyn pushed in the rebound on the glove side before Hiller was able to find the puck. It was Kostitsyn’s 18th goal of the season. Cody Franson picked up the other assist.
Kostitsyn almost made it 2-0 when just shy of the five minute mark he one-timed a shot from the slot that beat Hiller but narrowly missed the net.
Nick Spaling did make it 2-0 11:18 into the opening frame. Jon Blum shot the puck from the point. It went wide of the net and bounced off the boards. Spaling was there to collect the rebound and put the puck in the net behind Hiller.
Just 19 seconds later the Predators made it 3-0 when Kostitsyn picked up his second of the night on a Hornqvist deflection. That was goal number 19 for Kostitsyn. Kevin Klein picked up the secondary assist.
“We knew it was going to be a big game for us. We need those points so we came out hard and scored a couple goals,” Kostitsyn said.
The Ducks did manage to get on the score sheet with just 3:59 left in the period. Bobby Ryan sent a cross ice pass to Corey Perry who picked up his 41st goal of the season. Ryan Getzlaf also assisted.
Pekka Rinne was forced to make several key saves before the end of the first period when Cody Franson was sent to the box for holding with only 2:40 remaining on the clock.
Nashville had an early power play in the second period when Andreas Lilja was called for slashing Mike Fisher who had gone in all alone on Ellis.
The Predators managed a couple of scrambles in front of the net but were not able to capitalize. When Lilja got out of the puck he was fed the puck and went in on Rinne all alone, but the Predators netminder was up to the challenge and stopped the Ducks defenseman.
As the whistle blew the ice crew came out to clean the ice during the tv timeout and the crowd, still energized by Rinne’s save, stood on their feet for another standing ovation. It was the second consecutive game where the tv timeout standing ovation made an appearance. Nashville is now 7-0 when the the crowd serenades the team in such a fashion.
The Predators made it 4-1 with just 1:40 left in the second period. Jordin Tootoo scored his fifth goal of the season on a play which he actually began. Tootoo had to make a conscious effort to stay online as Spaling flew into the zone. Spaling’s drop pass to Tootoo who passed the puck to O’Brien. O’Brien sent the puck back to Tootoo who shot the puck past Ellis from the slot.
“It’s been a while since I scored a goal, so it’s nice to get the monkey off my back. Personally, it’s great to contribute offensively, but it’s a team effort. We’re glad we got the two points tonight, and we’ll take it and run with it,” Tootoo said about scoring.
It seemed as though Nashville had a commanding lead of the game going into the third period but the Ducks have been come back warriors as of late and would almost do it again Thursday night.
With 12:03 left in the third period, O’Brien was called for delay of game when he shot the puck over the glass. David Legwand scored shorthanded to make it 5-1 but Joel Ward fell on top of Ellis and got called for roughing as the goal was scored.
“They said that the puck went in beforehand but I don’t know how you justify that. Goalie interference is goalie interference. It makes it difficult for the goalie to stop the puck when he’s in the back of the net himself. The goal stands — that’s how the ref called it. You have to find a way to bounce back and we almost got it but we came up a little short,” Ellis said.
The roughing call gave the very dymanic Ducks a 5-on-3 power play and it only took Selanne 10 seconds to capitalize.
With the game 5-2, the Predators were again called for two quick penalties giving the Ducks another 5-on-3 man advantage. Nick Spaling was called for hooking 14:21 into the period with O’Brien called for the same infraction 39 seconds later.
The Ducks scored again on the 5-on-3 advantage as Teemu Selanne picked up his second goal of the game. It was his 25th goal of the season. The puck went in off Ryan Suter.
Ellis was pulled with almost 3 minutes remaining on the clock. With the empty net, the Predators tried to set up Kostitsyn for the hat trick but ended up turning over the puck on several occasions.
With only 26.5 seconds left on the clock, Perry picked up his second goal of the game to bring the Ducks within one of tying the game. Suter tried to stop the shot with a kick but ended up kicking the puck right into the back of his own net.
With the Ducks playing in Dallas on Wednesday and tying the game with 5 seconds remaining on the clock to go on and win it in overtime, Coach Barry Trotz frustration with the Predators inability to put the game away with an empty net goal was understandable.
“It’s not the time of year or the team that you want to do that against. They tried to feed him twice for the hat trick and it didn’t work; they came back and countered and almost scored both times. That’s what really frustrated me. We’ve got to manage the game. The game was still in a little bit of doubt,” Trotz said.
“There’s a time to be selfish, and there’s a time to be correct in what you want to do. We didn’t do that in the third period. I said to the guys, ‘I understand, and I compliment you for trying to get Sergei his hat trick, but at the same time, it was the wrong time and the wrong part of the season to do it. All the personal stuff goes out the window. We go for the win,” Trotz continued.
The last two goals for Anaheim went in off Suter and Trotz was quick to point that out. “On the five-on-three, it actually went off of Suter. He stuck his arm out and it hit his glove and redirected, so Suter got two goals today,” he said.
With the win, the Predators are now up to 90 points in the Western Conference. Anaheim still has one game in hand on Nashville. The Predators next play on Saturday night against Dallas who sit at 86 points on the season, four points behind Nashville.
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