Shea Weber's 20th goal of the season got the Nashville Predators to overtime, but that was all the goal-scoring they could muster as they fell in the shootout to the Anaheim Ducks after playing to a 1-1 tie in regular play.
In a sense, this was the quintessential playoff-drive game for a team like this which is battling on the brink of the postseason; there was frustration over the loss, but satisfaction in that at least one point was earned in the standings. Terror once the Preds fell behind 1-0, then jubilation when Weber tied the game in the third period...
The first two periods saw pretty conservative hockey by both teams; it was apparent that both the Ducks and Preds were in full-on "playoff mode", and costly giveaways were to be avoided at all costs, even if it meant throwing the puck back to the other team, as long as it was out of harm's way.
Nashville largely executed on its game plan, staying out of the penalty box to neutralize the red-hot Anaheim power play (only one penalty, to Steve Sullivan for Hooking, was taken all night). The most dangerous opportunity early came in the first when Ryan Getzlaf hit the post when he had a wide-open net available. Pekka Rinne was strong in the Predators net (18 saves on 19 shots), but did benefit from the posts more than once in this one.
Late in the second, the Ducks took a 1-0 lead when Teemu Selanne froze the defense as he came down the right wing, and fed a crossing pass to Drew Miller for the score. With the Preds struggling to score goals, that single-goal lead seemed daunting as the teams headed into the third...
To their credit, however, Nashville came out and dominated that period; they outshot the Ducks 15-4. A penalty to Corey Perry for sending the puck over the glass put the Preds on the power play, and that's when Weber cashed in for his 20th, the first time a Predators blueliner has hit that milestone. Several more good opportunities were available down the stretch, but it seemed like Nashville couldn't quite get to the loose rebound or get their shots lifted as high as they'd like to beat J.S. Giguere, who, frankly, seemed to have difficulty corraling the puck on occasion. The overtime period saw a couple decent chances each way, the biggest being a breakaway by Sullivan with just under 2:00 left in which he pulled Giguere out of position, but just couldn't get enough on his shot to win the game.
The shootout ended up going four rounds, with Nashville failing to score at all. Again, Sullivan made a tremendous move to create space to shoot for, but he hit the post leaving an opportunity open for Anaheim. Selanne scored on his attempt, and Radek Bonk got stuffed to close out the game.
The end result leaves the Preds in 9th place, a tiebreaker behind Anaheim as the two are tied with 78 points, but the Ducks holding more wins (36 to 35). Edmonton sits in 7th with 79, and St. Louis lurks in 10th with 77, just ahead of Minnesota's 76. That's right; 3 points separating 7-11 in the Wild, Wild West. That's why, despite some ugly, conservative hockey in the early going, there was something positive to take home tonight at the Sommet Center.