Haven’t the Nashville Predators already done this shootout thing a couple of times? Somebody pinch me.
Nashville took a tough loss on the road in Anaheim tonight. The team looked good throughout most of the game and matched up well with a fast, skilled Ducks team. But they once again proved unable to hold a lead and that cost them when they dropped the game in the shootout. And along the way, one of their best players fell to injury. Not a good night for Nashville.
Brandon Yip got Nashville off to a fantastic start, scoring at 1:52 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. Yip made a hustle play to get to a loose puck in the neutral zone, toe-dragged to take a shot, and kept moving down to the goalmouth where he was able to stuff home his own rebound for the unassisted goal:
The Preds stayed strong for a few minutes but took two penalties – including one strange interference call on Craig Smith for passing Scott Hannan’s dropped stick to him – and handed all the initiative back to the Ducks. Nashville’s penalty kill looked better than it has all season, though, and the lead stayed intact, partly thanks to some classic Pekka Rinne effort in goal. The Preds got their own turn on the power play at the end of the first after Toni Lydman cleared the puck over the glass, but couldn’t score after it carried over to the second period.
Nashville started the second strong, and two strong shifts from the Wilson – Fisher – Erat and Bourque – Legwand – Hornqvist line produced scoring chances, but the team couldn’t beat Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth, who was making his NHL debut. The team’s attention to defensive details was a lot stronger than the last few games, too, as they collapsed toward the goal anytime the puck got near. But as the period went on Anaheim weathered the storm and began to press, especially after Patric Hornqvist was hit full-on in the leg by a Shea Weber slapshot. He returned to the ice, but Anaheim finally broke through at 19:35 on Bobby Ryan’s first of the year:
Both teams continued to play high-tempo hockey throughout the third and Nashville broke the tie with a prototypical David Legwand goal at 10:09 after Fasth gave up a rebound on a Kevin Klein shot from the blue line:
Nashville took a huge blow halfway through the third when Patric Hornqvist fell under Ryan Getzlaf. From the replay his right leg appeared to have bent awkwardly as he fell down, and he had to be helped off the ice.
The Preds got another shot at the power play after Ryan Getzlaf closed his hand on the puck at 14:22 but the Ducks’s PK unit wouldn’t let them get set up. Anaheim continued to mount pressure toward the end of the period and Corey Perry entered the zone looking to create a scoring chance, but Ryan Ellis, giving up five inches of height to Perry, played some excellent positional defense and took all the former Hart Trophy winner’s options away. The overtime period was an up-and-down game with several scoring chances, but in the end Perry’s shootout goal past Rinne was good enough to get the two points for Anaheim.
- Colin Wilson started on the top line tonight and looked as good as he’s been all season. His presence along the left boards helped the Preds enter Anaheim’s zone multiple times in situations where Sergei Kostitsyn had previously been chipping the puck in or coughing it up when challenged by the defense. He hit Mike Fisher and Martin Erat with several crisp, creative passes throughout the night and provided the top line with a physicality it’s been missing with Kostitsyn on the left wing. I’d be very surprised if he weren’t on the top line again on Monday at Phoenix.
- Pekka Rinne continues to slowly look better during regulation and overtime, but he can’t get a shootout victory right now. Probably doesn’t help much that the forwards have given him next to nothing in terms of support: they’re a combined 1-for-10 in shootout chances now.
- Craig Smith played just four minutes and two seconds, less even than Rich Clune, and was absent for the last two-thirds of the game after he took a penalty technically called for “throwing the stick.” Coach Trotz answered one question from commentators Pete Weber and Terry Crisp in the first intermission before saying, “Some guys might get reduced ice time,” and having Pete cut the interview short. Smith isn’t producing in any of the situations he’s been used in, but he can’t be sent down to Milwaukee because he’s played too many NHL games and would have to clear waivers first. In that regard, those long stretches late last season where Smith went cold are coming back to bite Nashville right now.
- Gabriel Bourque had good energy again and grabbed his first point of the season, an assist on Legwand’s goal.
- I’ve given Brandon Yip a bit of a hard time lately but he made a good play on that goal in the first and actually looked pretty good throughout the game. He now has two points (1G-1A) on the season. Rich Clune also looked vastly improved, although he set the bar pretty low to begin with. He distracted Fasth on Yip’s goal and then agitated to goad an Anaheim player into dropping his gloves and stick in the first period before turning his back and skated away.
- Hal Gill looked awful on the Winnik goal.
Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, sometimes you’re the ball. #life
— Hal Gill (@Skillsy75) January 27, 2013
I think Jon Blum might get his first start of the season on Monday.
- Shots were essentially even at 22-21 for the Ducks, a moral victory for the Preds after the way St. Louis shut them down last game. Faceoffs were even again, which had to be a disappointment after getting Paul Gaustad back in the lineup for the first time in three games.
- For the third time this season Nashville lost after scoring first, all of them in shootouts. The Preds only lost in overtime games after scoring first four times all of last season.
- It looks like Patric Hornqvist won’t be back on the ice anytime too soon:
Trotz said Hornqvist out indefinitely. Didn’t know if he would be further examined out here or back in Nashville.
— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) January 27, 2013
That’s a pretty big blow for the Preds. Hornqvist had come out with a lot of energy to start the season and was tied for the team lead in points. He’s a big part of the team’s power play unit, which has been one of a handful of bright spots in an otherwise dour first five games. And the line with him, Legwand, and Bourque showed signs that it could have paid dividends. It’s still early but the best-case scenario seems like he would still be out for several weeks. Worst-case…well, let’s think about that later.