Despite getting an early 3rd-period goal from Patric Hornqvist and a late on from Martin Erat, the Nashville Predators couldn't climb their way out of a deep hole against the Anaheim Ducks and lost 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd tonight at the Sommet Center. Pekka Rinne stopped 18 of 21 Anaheim shots.
Follow after the jump for the video highlights and reaction...
The bottom line tonight was the Predators clearly missed Jason Arnott, as they couldn't seem to generate any consistent offensive pressure through the first two periods. Wherever Nashville tried to attack it seemed like they were outnumbered by a Ducks team that covered up defensively, then struck on the few chances they got in return.
As the Preds fell behind 1-0 in the first period, then 2-0 and later 3-0 in the second, the crowd seemed ready for some sign of fight to come from the team, but it just didn't seem to. In most NHL cities, a situation like that would call for the team's enforcer to go out and stir things up, energize the crowd and galvanize the team into playing a more aggressive game. But outside of one 1st-period shift that saw him bowl over Kyle Chipchura after a faceoff, Wade Belak was a non-factor. He took 3 shifts in the opening period, 2 shifts in the second, and his night was done. It did seem at one point like he took a puck that stung him as he went to the bench, so perhaps that's the reason, but the team could have certainly used a jolt of adrenaline early on. The first 40 minutes tonight was some of the worst the Preds have played on home ice this season.
Thankfully, however, the team did come out in the third ready to battle. A quick power play goal by Hornqvist got Nashville on the board, and from that point there seemed to be at least more effort and determination to gain possession in the Anaheim zone. As the team with the lead, however, the Ducks were able to stack the blueline often and make it very difficult for the Preds to find a weak spot to attack.
The refs also "let the boys play" quite a bit through most of the game, which certainly helps a team which is trying to protect a lead. Only two penalties were called the entire night.
While Erat's goal with 3 minutes left (a tip of a J.P. Dumont shot) brought the Preds back to within one, and the guys did get a couple shots in during the final moments, you just felt watching this that it was a game they had no business winning.
And they didn't.
The Preds' next home game is Monday, January 18th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. For discounted tickets to this or any other Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".