In a game that was far closer than the score indicated, the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 at the Honda Center on Wednesday night. The contest was a one-goal game until the Preds scored two empty netters in the final 52 seconds of play.
The Predators goals came from Jerred Smithson, Patric Hornqvist, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Shea Weber. Hornqvist and Kostitsyn also assisted on each others goal for two point nights.
Pekka Rinne held off 40 of 41 Duck shots in route to his eleventh victory of the season. Jonas Hiller stopped 20 of 22 shots and took the loss.
With the win, Preds Coach Barry Trotz moved into a tie for sixth place all-time for wins with one team with Dick Irwin, who had 431 wins with the Montreal Canadians between 1940 and 1955.
The Predators got off to an aggressive start and at 5:10 in the opening period Smithson repeatedly slapped at the puck repeatedly in the blue paint and then tried to sell the officials that he had scored a goal by raising his arms in celebration. After an extended review, to the surprise of everyone in the building and in the home viewing audience, the decision from the on ice officials was reversed and Smithson was awarded his fourth goal of the season to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.
In a well scripted manner, George Parros and Wade Belak squared off at 8:23 in a battle of heavyweights that proved little. Both received majors and spent some time resting in the box. Belak’s work was almost done as he only played one more shift for the remainder of the game.
Anaheim ended the first period with a lopsided 15-5 advantage in shots. After the Preds’ goal, the team only had two more shots for the rest of the period.
The second period started with the dangerous Ducks man advantage getting their first power play opportunity just 59 seconds into the middle stanza after Weber got beat by Bobby Ryan and ended up tripping him at the Preds net. The Ducks had three shots on the man advantage but the Preds held firm.
The Predators came back with their second goal on an amazing play as Kostitsyn put a perfect pass on Hornqvist’s stick as he was being surrounded by a pair of Ducks in the blue paint and the puck found its way into the net to give the Preds a 2-0 lead.
As the period wound down at 17:07, Ryan startled Rinne by ringing a long shot off the pipe as he came close to cutting the lead in half.
The Ducks finally cut the Preds’ lead in half at 11:46 in the third when Saku Koivu scored his fourth goal against the Predators this season. Koivu took the feed from Dan Sexton and unloaded it passed Rinne to make it a 2-1 game.
The Predators faced a strong test after a revived Duck team turned up the pressure after cutting the lead to a goal. With 3:47 left Maxim Lapierre was tripped by Rinne, which put the Ducks on another power play. The Ducks played desperate hockey on the man advantage, firing repeatedly at the net but were credited with only one shot.
With 52 seconds left, Kostitsyn took a pass from Hornqvist and got an empty netter to give the Preds a 3-1 lead. With .2 seconds left, Weber slammed the puck into the boards trying to clear it from behind the Preds goal line and it caromed into the Ducks empty net to give the Preds a 4-1 win. It was the second time in a week that the Preds got two empty netters in a game.
With the win, the Predators win streak went to three games and they vaulted into sixth place with 46 points, a point behind fourth place San Jose who they will face Saturday.
After the game, the Predators headed across town to LA Live for the rest of the evening as they will cross the street to play the Kings Thursday night.