The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Nashville Predators in dramatic fashion when Paul Mara scored the game winning goal with 1.7 seconds remaining Sunday night at the Honda Center.
The Ducks got two goals from Saku Koivu, while Teemu Selanne and Lubomir Visnovsky also added tallies in their 5-4 victory. Selanne added an assist for a two point night while Bobby Ryan and Jason Blake each had two helpers.
Visnovsky was the Ducks unsung hero as he appeared to be everywhere in the final period when he drew two penalties on breakaways and scored the Ducks third goal to start the period. He also had six shots for the evening.
The Predators played a much better game than they have during their five game losing streak and deserved a much better fate. The Preds matched every goal that the Ducks got but had no time left on the clock to do so again after the Mara goal.
Patric Hornqvist, Steve Sullivan, Cody Franson and Cal O’Reilly all had a goal and an assist for the Preds in the losing effort.
The main positive from the game for the Predators was the play of the O’Reilly-Sullivan-Hornqvist line. The trio scored three goals and two assists and were a combined +7 for the game.
Jonas Hiller stopped 20 of 24 shots for the win while Anders Lindback suffered his first regulation NHL loss giving up five goals on 37 shots.
The game did not start the way the Predators would have liked. Fifty-two seconds into the game, Ryan fired a slapshot from Lindback’s right side that he blocked. The rebound poped to the open side of the net where Selanne put it into the empty net giving the Ducks a quick 1-0 lead. The Predators quickly tied the game 1-1 at 2:34 when O’Reilly shot from near the blue line and Hornqvist tipped the puck into the net.
The Predators had another defensive breakdown at 10:49 when Koivu took a pass from Selanne and put the shot into the net behind Lindback. There were no Preds defensemen around the net to support their goalie during heavy traffic.
The Predators showed resiliency when they tied the game 2-2 at 17:16 when Sullivan skated in and backhanded the puck into the net. Hornqvist got his second point of the night with the assist.
The first period ended with the Ducks out shooting the Preds 11-9. In spite of defensive breakdowns leading to two Ducks goals, the Predators seemed to play more inspired hockey at the start of the game than they have in the past few contests.
Both teams skated well in the second period with plenty of back and forth action. A series of three penalties — two on the Ducks and one on the Preds — led to odd man action beginning at 11:07, but no goals were scored.
The Predators outshot the Kings 12-9 during the second period. The Predators received little benefit from three power plays during the period as they only had three shots.
As play started in the third period the Ducks created a ton of traffic in front of the Predator net and Visnovsky put the puck through several players and past Lindback into the net to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead at the 49 second mark.
At 6:15, Franson threaded the needle from near the blue line and put the puck past Hiller to again tie the game 3-3. A couple of minutes later, Shane O’Brien could not keep up with Visnovsky on a drive to the net and was called for holding putting the Ducks on the man advantage at 8:05. The Preds fought off several chances for the Ducks but Koivu put a sot off Lindback’s shoulder that went into the net at 10:05 to put the Ducks back in the lead 4-3.
Surprisingly the Preds tied the game at 4-4 when Franson threw the puck into the crease from the corner and O’Reilly redirected the puck into the net at 16:13 of the final stanza.
As play wound down, it appeared that the Preds would get their first point in two weeks when the Ducks worked the puck into the Preds zone and Ryan passed the puck across the crease under a diving Shea Weber to Mara who put the puck into the empty side of the net with 1.7 seconds left on the clock.
In the third period, the Ducks outshot the Preds 17-3.
The loss extends the Predators losing streak to five games and leaves them with a 5-5-3 record. They have not won since winning back to back games against Dallas and Tampa two weekends ago.
After the game, the Predators headed back home to Nashville. They will return to the ice on Tuesday to prepare for an overnight trip to St. Louis on Wednesday for a match with the Blues on Thursday night.