The Predators salvaged a point with a two-goal rally in the third, but a shootout victory for the Ducks forced Nashville to exit Honda Center unsatisfied on Sunday night in Anaheim.
A sluggish first period, and later three goals allowed in the second, established an uphill battle for the Predators to fight. Goals from Craig Smith and Rocco Grimaldi tied the game in the third frame, but after Ryan Getzlaf netted the winner in the shootout, Nashville went back to thinking about what could have been. After a back-to-back set in Southern California, the Predators will return to Music City with three out of a possible four points.
“In the first, we came up flat,” Preds Captain Roman Josi said. “Thanks to [goaltender Juuse Saros] it was only 1-1 [after the first period]… in the second, we actually played better, but we took too many penalties, and that kind of cost us. It was great for us to come back, and we had some chances in OT too, but I wish we would’ve got two points in the shootout.”
The Ducks had the Preds under siege from the start of the game, and it was Adam Henrique, who put the home team on the board first with a backhander 12 minutes into the first. If it weren’t for the stellar play of Saros in the Nashville net, the Predators could have found themselves down by more than one.
With less than a minute to play in the opening frame, Austin Watson tipped home a Colin Blackwell shot to even the score after 20 minutes. Saros ended up with a total of 20 saves in the first period.
“We were flat in the first period,” Watson said. “No excuse for it. But I thought for a group that, we’ve gotten down in some games and haven’t been able to claw our way back and let them get out of hand a little bit, but for our group, I thought it was a real big gut check to be able to come out and… get a point.”
Early in the second, Smith gave the visitors their only lead of the night when he redirected a pass from Kyle Turris past John Gibson and into the cage. The Ducks came back with three unanswered goals from Cam Fowler, Daniel Sprong and Henrique before the middle stanza was out.
The Predators weren’t ready to surrender, however, especially the line of Smith, Nick Bonino and Grimaldi. After Smith put home his second of the night, Josi extended his point streak to 10 games with a beautiful assist to Grimaldi, who evened the score at 4-4 to force overtime.
“The whole line was really good tonight,” Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Rocco was terrific. He got going in the second and third period, and I thought that line started to take over the game for us there. They were really dominant out there every time they were on the ice. Good things were happening, and they scored some big goals for us.”
“With our line, I think we just want to just go and attack,” Smith said. “Create turnovers, maybe we let them off the hook, but we’re sick of doing that. We’ll be all right.”
After Grimaldi came inches away from winning the game on a breakaway in OT, a five-round shootout saw Getzlaf score the winner to send the Preds home with a single point.
There wasn’t any satisfaction in the loss on Sunday night, but the Predators did take three out of four points over the two-day span. For a team that needs points wherever possible right now, the weekend wasn’t all bad.
“It was a good comeback tonight,” Josi said. “We weren’t happy with the way we’re playing in the first, and then I thought we battled back and stayed with it. You always want the four points, but it was good character coming back. We just have to find a way to win it.”
Josi set a franchise record for a defenseman with points in 10 consecutive games. He became the eighth defenseman in the last 20 years in the NHL to register a point streak of at least 10 games.
As was the case on Saturday, the Predators were without Ryan Ellis (upper-body injury, Injured Reserve), Matt Duchene (illness) Colton Sissons (lower-body injury, Injured Reserve) and Dante Fabbro (upper-body injury, day-to-day).
Alexandre Carrier dressed for the Preds on Sunday night in Anaheim for his third career NHL game and his first since January of 2017.
Their three-game road trip now complete, the Predators will return home for a single contest against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night (at 7 p.m. CT) at Bridgestone Arena before heading back out on the road, starting Thursday in Chicago.