From start to finish, the Predators maintained pressure and steadily pulled away from the Anaheim Ducks in a decisive 4-1 victory. Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber were the stand-outs with two points each, but it was a solid team effort that Predators fans are used to seeing.
After a scoreless first period with many chances both ways, the scoring started when Marcel Goc ripped home a wrister at 4:10 of the second. His shot came from the slot, beating Jonas Hiller high blocker side. Goc received and settled down a long, bouncy pass from Jordin Tootoo, which set up the goal.
Just 1:15 later, Saku Koivu got Anaheim on the board with a nice wrist shot of his own. Not many players are able to score on Pekka Rinne high-glove, but Koivu did just that. Teemu Selanne and Cam Fowler assisted on the goal. Fowler notched his first NHL point with that assist.
After the two goals, the game really opened up and the teams traded scoring chances. In about a minute span, Sullivan was stoned by Hiller on a breakaway, Ryan Suter made a diving save with his stick on an open net, and Hiller sprawled to stop a Tootoo shot.
Nashville jumped out to a 2-1 lead when Sullivan scored on a one-timer 8:33 into the second; the goal came on the power play. Suter and Weber picked up the assists on the eventual game-winning tally.
Later on in the period, the Preds were forced to kill off a two-man disadvantage. Anaheim had plenty of opportunities and even had 11 straight shots – to no avail. You could make an argument that this penalty kill was a key difference-maker in Nashville’s win.
Once the Predators killed the penalties, the ice tilted towards the other end as they spent most of the last five minutes in Anaheim’s zone. At 16:12 of the period, Patric Hornqvist scored on a rebound to give Nashville a 3-1 advantage. Last year, Hornqvist made a living scoring those types of goals.
Early on in the third period, Ducks forward Troy Bodie drove towards the net and rammed into Pekka Rinne. A scrum ensued, with Rinne at the bottom of the pile. Rinne stayed in net for another minute, but pulled himself out of the game with a lower-body injury. Anders Lindback entered and performed admirably (7 saves in 17-plus minutes) in his first NHL action.
David Legwand put the cherry on top with 7:21 remaining in the game when he put home a second chance, giving the Predators a 4-1 lead. The goal was set up by a nice individual by J.P. Dumont.
The Preds ended the game with two power plays, but didn’t show as much urgency as the game was already in the freezer. They went 1-for-6 on the man advantage, showing improvement from the pre-season.
The crowd at Bridgestone Arena tonight was outstanding right from the beginning. It was indeed a sellout, and it gave the game a bit of a playoff flavor as the fans enjoyed what they were seeing.
Rinne is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. After the game, Preds coach Barry Trotz stated that he doesn’t think it’s serious. The team does plan on calling up a goalie from Milwaukee as a precaution.
This may have been the best game I’ve ever seen Suter play (which is saying something!). He led all skaters with over 27 minutes of ice-time, made that key save when Rinne was out of position, and was dominant in the all-important five-on-three kill in the second period.
Cal O’Reilly also had a great game. He didn’t show up on the stat-sheet, but won more faceoffs than he lost, had three takeaways, and logged solid ice-time (16:43). O’Reilly was on the bubble for a final roster spot, but has been given a vote of confidence by the coaching staff by being able to play alongside Hornqvist and Sullivan.
Shane O’Brien was decent in his debut with Nashville. He was shaky on his first shift (which was on the PK), but settled down and even laid a big hit on Bobby Ryan. Once he gets acclimated in Trotz’s system, he’ll be a valuable defender for this team.
Francis Bouillon got in a rare fight, taking on a much bigger Bodie in the first period. Bodie stands at 6’4”, 196… Bouillon is 5’8”, 198. For the record, Bouillon won the fight.
Nashville racked up a staggering 49 shots in the game. If it weren’t for Hiller’s efforts, then this would have been a complete blow out. He made some nice saves moving side-to-side and didn’t get much help from his blue-line.
Trotz on all-around contributions:
“We had some balanced scoring today. Goc had a great goal to start it off. I thought all our lines played well and got contributions from all our lines. I thought Legwand’s line did a really good job against a very tough Getzlaf line. We had contributions right through the whole lineup.”
Trotz on O’Reilly’s play:
“For the most part, I like a lot of things that Cal did in terms of distributing the puck and making decisions. First power play, I didn’t like his decision… he tried to make a pass from one corner to the other through four people. I think he’s played really well defensively; I have a lot of trust in him.”
Weber on five-on-three penalty kill:
“It was huge. Any time you can kill off a penalty like that, the momentum just builds. You could hear the crowd after we killed off those penalties and really got us the momentum back in our direction.”
Weber on the victory:
“It’s huge. We want to get on a roll here. The start of the season hasn’t been great for us the last little while, so we need to make sure we get points at the start and make it easier on us down the road.”
Lindback on his first NHL performance:
“I felt like we had the game where we wanted it and everyone was playing a solid game. It wasn’t too many shots for me to handle… I managed to stop them, so that’s good.”
Bouillon on size disadvantage in the fight:
“(Laughs) Yeah, it’s pretty much always like that, because everyone’s got a size advantage on me. I never refuse a fight and that guy came up to me and asked me.”
You couldn’t have asked for a better way for the Preds to start a season of redemption. They skated hard all night and took advantage of a Ducks club that was on the back end of a back-to-back. Weber was dominant and the offense scored by committee as usual.
Going forward, the Preds will head to Chicago on Wednesday, then return home for a date with St. Louis on Thursday; it’s certainly a key divisional back-to-back here early in the year.