The Nashville Predators came into tonight’s mettle-testing matchup against the Anaheim Ducks riding a three-game win streak, yet–they leave as an even bigger enigma than first thought.
The Preds faced a tough test with the absence of Shea Weber, JP Dumont, and Martin Erat against a Ducks team desperate for a win after a 4-7-2 start.
The return of captain Jason Arnott from injury and the season debut of Jordin Tootoo figured to go a little way in counteracting the team’s shorthandness, but the 4-0 loss was the fourth time this season that Nashville has been shutout.
Early on it seemed as if the Predators would be able to dictate the pace of the game with Tootoo landing a thunderous hit on Ryan Carter and even after falling behind 1-0, they were maintaining a shot advantage and Pekka Rinne was bailing out the defense repeatedly.
Heading into the third period the goal-deprived Preds were still within reason of trying to steal away a win. But on this night it wasn’t to be. The flood gates opened up eight minutes in when Joel Ward got his stick tangled up with a diving Bobby Ryan creating a 4-on-4 situation. Teemu Selanne scored on a one-time pass from Saku Koivu and the Ducks would score twice within the next eight minutes– in a period that saw the Predators go from clinging to a chance at taking away a point to getting flat blown off the ice.
Jonas Hiller earned first star as the Preds had 40+ shots for just the second time this season. Despite this small positive and the early play of Pekka Rinne, which kept the game up for grabs after two periods, the Predators played uninspiring hockey.
None of Nashville’s 40 shots came close to vying for the back of the net. Wade Belak’s decision over George Parros (in only the second fight for the Preds this season) failed to motivate the team and David Legwand went scoreless for the 27th consecutive time in regulation. Weber’s absence was felt during the team’s third period meltdown in which the Ducks went largely unchallenged in putting on a passing clinic in front of Rinne’s net. The lone bright spot was Patric Hornqvist, who was the easily the Predators’ best player with a career high 10 shots on goal, but even he ended up with a -2 rating.
The Predators season is still very much a toss up and the team must now turn their attention to finding a way to match the fire power of the Los Angeles Kings who they’ll face Saturday at Staples Center. The game is the second of the Preds’ four game western swing and one would figure that coming away with two wins would be ideal.