Thirteen different members of the visiting team recorded at least a point, and the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 5-3 final on Friday night at the Honda Center. The result gives the Preds six wins and 14 points on the season, just what they had in mind to start a back-to-back set in Southern California.
A rematch of last spring’s Western Conference Final, Nashville got timely scoring throughout the lineup and held off a late Anaheim push to get Pekka Rinne the win on his 35th birthday.
“It was a solid game right from the get go,” Nashville forward Scott Hartnell said. “For the most part, we were solid, we were quick, we were getting on their defensemen and turning some pucks over. We were holding onto pucks and using our D. They got a couple big goals for us. All in all, it was a way better effort than the last few games. It was really good to see.”
Goals from Hartnell and Roman Josi gave Nashville a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, and while Anaheim tallied twice in the middle frame, so did the Preds to keep their two-goal advantage. Matt Irwin recorded his first of the season before Viktor Arvidsson scored on the power play, his fourth of the campaign.
Anaheim pulled to within one in the third, but P.K. Subban iced it with an empty-netter for his second of the season with Rinne recording an assist on the play.
“[The Ducks] are always hard to play against,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s always tough to find space out there and do things, but I thought we played a pretty good hockey game.”
After Nashville’s 4-1 loss to San Jose on Wednesday night, two points of emphasis were clear after the fact: capitalize on chances and stay out of the box.
The Predators found ways to improve on both Friday night, finding the back of the net on five occasions while taking only four penalties compared to eight against the Sharks.
“We talk about discipline every night and we’re the most penalized team right now, but to take four, that’s good,” Irwin said. “That keeps guys in the rhythm of the game and lightens the load on certain guys when it comes to penalty killing and playing heavy, hard minutes. [It allows us to] get into the flow and play to our system.”
It wasn’t just names like Josi, Arvidsson and Hartnell scoring goals and collecting points on Friday night, but also Irwin, Yannick Weber, Pontus Aberg and Kevin Fiala, the latter three adding assists. Frederick Gaudreau also got on the scoresheet with two helpers, his first career multi-point outing.
“Listen, the goals haven’t been easy,” Laviolette said. “Guys are working hard, and even tonight, we had a lot of chances and still didn’t connect, but guys worked hard and it’s nice to see them get on the board. Matt’s was a really nice shot, and I thought Freddie played a heck of a game for us.”
Also doing his part in his 1,200th NHL outing was Hartnell, going to the net and playing what Laviolette continues to call the best 200-foot game of his career.
“Time goes fast,” Hartnell laughed. “It seems like yesterday was my first camp here in Nashville for the Preds. A lot of great games, some bad ones along the way, bumps and bruises. I’m pretty lucky to come to work every day in this great League and enjoy what I do and have a lot of passion for this game. It’s been a lot of fun and an amazing ride so far. And a big two points for us against a really solid team.”
Friday night in Anaheim marked Scott Hartnell’s 1,200th career NHL game and the 700th NHL contest for Cody McLeod. Hartnell became the 109th player in NHL history and only the ninth active skater to reach the milestone.
Anthony Bitetto, Miikka Salomaki and Samuel Girard were scratched for Nashville against the Ducks.