Ducks beat Predators 4-3 in shootout
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Anaheim Ducks have achieved the best record in the NHL by winning close games and wearing down their opponents along the way. The Nashville Predators found that out the hard way in their first meeting of the season.
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin scored the tying goal with 2:17 left in regulation and Ryan Kesler got the deciding goal in the shootout, giving the Ducks a 4-3 victory Sunday night after they outshot the Predators 14-3 in the third period. Seventeen of Anaheim's last 19 victories have been by one-goal margins, including four in overtime and four by shootouts.
''It's not the way we draw it up,'' the Ducks' Corey Perry said. ''They're a heck of a hockey team. They can skate, they can make plays, and it was a battle out there tonight. They play really hard and battle for every inch.''
Perry and Matt Beleskey also had goals in regulation for the Ducks, who have a league-best 58 points, and Frederik Andersen made 27 saves in a matchup of division leaders.
''Good teams know how to win those one-goal games,'' Kesler said. ''That's how they are in the playoffs. Playoffs are one-goal games. So if we know how to win them now, it's going to make it that much easier then.''
Seth Jones and Craig Smith had power-play goals in the second period and Mattias Ekholm also scored for the Predators. Backup goalie Carter Hutton stopped 30 shots, but remained winless in five starts this season - all on the road.
The Ducks got the tying goal when Beauchemin poked the puck past Hutton's right skate during a goalmouth scramble for his second goal of an injury-plagued season.
''When he wants to go after the puck, nothing gets in his way,'' Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''It was good for him to be able to score the goal because you know he's going to the front of the net in those situations.''
The Predators, who blew a three-goal lead against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the final 2:01 of regulation on Saturday before winning in overtime, slipped into a tie atop the Central Division with Chicago after the Blackhawks beat Dallas in overtime.
''We've had a tough last couple minutes the last couple games, but it's nothing we can't fix and move on from,'' Smith said. ''You can see why Anaheim's one of the best teams.
''They know how to play their systems well. A lot of the guys on their team are really going right now. Same with us.''
The Ducks had four penalties called against them during a 6:37 span of the second period, after playing the first 35 1/2 minutes without getting one. Two of those infractions led to the power-play goals that gave Nashville a 3-2 lead.
Jones tied the score with 6:10 left in the period on a double deflection off Kesler's stick and Ben Lovejoy's leg after taking long wrist shot with Beauchemin serving a holding-the-stick penalty. Smith put the Predators ahead with 2:46 to go, converting a rebound while Perry was off for tripping Shea Weber.
''Even though we were down 3-2, I thought we were the better team,'' Kesler said. ''Other than giving up a couple of power-play goals, I thought we took it to them 5-on-5.''
Beleskey opened the scoring with 7:45 left in the first with his team-high and career-best 17th goal, beating Hutton with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle after Kesler knocked heralded rookie Filip Forsberg off the puck in the neutral zone. Forsberg, who leads all rookies with 36 points, entered the game with a plus-23 rating.
Ekholm tied it at 1:38 of the second with a slap shot from the top of the left circle. Anaheim regained the lead 74 seconds later on a sharp-angle shot from the right circle by Perry, his 15th goal this season and first in three games after missing the previous 10 because of a sprained knee.
NOTES: Hutton received a Stanley Cup ring from the Chicago Blackhawks after the 2012-13 season despite playing in only one game for them because Ray Emery was too ill to play. It was a 3-1 loss at St. Louis in his NHL debut. ... The Ducks have been short-handed 17 times over their last three games, after a four-game stretch in which they were a man down just six times. ... Forsberg's assist on Ekholm's goal was his 37th point, the most among rookies, and tied Alexander Radulov's franchise rookie record. ... The Ducks are 23-2-6 when allowing fewer than four goals. The only losses were 2-0 to St. Louis and 3-0 to San Jose. ... The Ducks have already played 15 games past regulation, just three fewer than all of last season. ... Anaheim is 1 for 27 on the power play in its last nine games.