For the Predators, it was priority number one that they play a 60 minute game against the Ducks.
Pekka Rinne was back in net for the Predators after getting a rare night off, while the Ducks countered with Jonas Hiller.
The Predators struck first just 1:20 into the game as Craig Smith dug a puck out from behind the net and fired a bad angle shot that went off the back of Hiller and into the net.
Simple hockey, but effective hockey against a team that is explosively
The Predators scored again at 4:56 of the period as they forced the puck into the Ducks zone and Colin Wilson centered a pass across the crease toward Patric Hornqvist. The puck caromed off a Ducks defenseman puck past Hiller to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.
Two shots, two goals.
It's amazing how simple this game can be sometimes.
The Predators dominated the play in the first period, firing shot after shot at Hiller and generating several good scoring chances, but could not bury a shot past the Ducks netminder.
Anaheim would grab some momentum back as the Predators had generated a strong puck possession in the Anaheim zone. Unfortunately, the five skaters for the Predators were on the ice for a looong time and got caught in a very bad line change. This allowed the Ducks to gain the zone and Cam Fowler fired a shot toward the net with traffic in front. The shot eluded Rinne and the Ducks were on the board at 19:21.
This period of hockey was as good for the Predators as the second period against the Kings was bad. Now it was going to be important for the Predators to come out and play another strong period in the second. Remember boys, it's a 60 minute game.
In the first period, the Predators out shot the Ducks 12-11, but often controlled play for stretches at a time in the Ducks zone with their aggressive forecheck.
REMEMBER BOYS, IT'S A 60 MINUTE GAME!
Apparently, the Predators didn't remember that the game was a 60 minute affair, as the Ducks had out shot the Predators 6-2 through the first 9 minutes of the period and had a dominant territorial advantage. The Predators kept tempting fate by taking some untimely penalties.
With Craig Smith in the box, Marty Erat stole the puck a got a breakaway, that was stopped by Hiller. He was awarded a penalty shot however, and Erat converted at 12:41 to give the Predators a 3-1 lead. Erat absolutely blew the puck past Hiller on the glove side for a huge goal for the Predators.
Erat stole the puck again and had a breakaway that Hiller stopped, but Erat's effort on the penalty kill was outstanding. This after Erat was hit in the face in the first period by an errant puck that required a trip to the locker room and stitches.
The Ducks got back to within 1 goal at 14:41 as Ryan Getzlaf walked out from behind the goal and shot a puck that Rinne appeared to have covered. The Ducks kept whacking at the puck and Francois Beauchemin jammed it past Rinne to make it 3-2 Predators.
The remainder of the period saw the Predators awake and get their game in gear. They generated some quality chances but could not bury their chances, but it was good to see this team respond and begin to play like they did in the first period.
Indicative of how they played in the second half of the period was the shot total. For the period, the Predators out shot the Ducks once again by a 12-11 margin. Recall they had been out shot 6-2 after nine minutes of play.
To capture this game, it was going to be incumbent upon the Predators to get back to their basics: forecheck aggressively; get the puck deep; and play solid defense. Just like they did in the first period. Everyone on the Predators bench knew that the Ducks would come out with a strong push in the third, and the Predators were going to have to match that intensity.
Remember boys, it is a 60 minute game.
The Predators opened the third period with the line that had played a stellar game- Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, and Craig Smith- doing damage to the Dirty Ducks once again. Wilson took the puck on the low cycle and found Craig Smith driving the net. He put a pass from the corner right on the tape of Smith's stick and he lifted the puck over the pads of Hiller to give the Predators a 4-2 lead at 1:36 of the third period. This was Smith's 7th goal of the season as the young rookie has made a significant impact on this Predators team.
The remainder of the third period saw the Predators keep pressure on the Ducks and spend time in their zone. When the Ducks mounted an attack, the Predators defense limited secondary scoring chances and kept the Ducks big threats from getting solid chances.
Pekka Rinne was excellent in net, making some huge saves to keep the Ducks off the board. Inevitably, the Ducks have enough talent to generate some chances. When they did, they were met by the Finnish Wall who stoned their scoring opportunities.
This was a solid road trip for the Predators as they captured 7 out of a possible 10 points against some quality competition.
Watching this game, it was apparent that when this team works and plays Predator hockey- for 60 minutes- they are tough to play against and they can play with anyone in this league.
It really is a simple game.
My three stars:
1. Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, Craig Smith
2. Marty Erat
3. Pekka Rinne