Ducks shell Rinne, Preds to claim top spot in standings; Getzlaf sits
The Anaheim Ducks lost their captain Ryan Getzlaf to an injury just before faceoff in the NHL's toughest building this season. They made sure not to lose the game as well.
Jakob Silfverberg scored two goals, and the Ducks took the top of the NHL standings for themselves by beating the Nashville Predators 5-2 Thursday night even with Getzlaf scratched after aggravating a lower-body injury in warmups.
"A lot of guys will have to step up if you lose some of the key guys, and I think a lot of guys showed up tonight and played really well," Silfverberg said. "And winning here is tough, and we managed to do it tonight, which obviously (we) did great."
Anaheim and Nashville came in tied with 72 points, though the Predators have a game in hand. The teams also have the league's winningest goalies with Pekka Rinne back in net for Nashville after missing three weeks with an injured knee. Frederik Andersen made 44 saves in tying Rinne with his 29th win.
Sami Vatanen and Matt Beleskey scored a goal each as the Ducks started a five-game road trip in dominating fashion. Corey Perry got an empty-netter with 1:19 remaining.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said he learned late in warmups that Getzlaf wasn't feeling well, forcing him to scramble his lines.
"We knew who we were playing and we knew temporarily what was at stake, and we knew it was a big game," Boudreau said. "So I knew we were all up for the game. It was just sort of something that throws everybody into a little, I wouldn't call it a quagmire, but it's something you say, `OK, you're playing with this guy, you're playing with that guy and you're playing with that guy.'"
Colin Wilson and James Neal each scored for Nashville, which lost in regulation at home for only the third time this season.
Nashville, which came in a league-best 20-2-1 at home, snapped a franchise-record eight-game winning streak at home. Rinne also was back in net for the first time since hurting his knee Jan. 13. The goalie was 10-0-1 in his 11 games before getting hurt.
But Rinne looked rusty in his return.
He stopped a shot from Silfverberg and the puck went off Rinne's stick, with Nashville defenseman Shea Weber next to him. The Ducks forward skated around both and scored short-handed on a backhander over a sprawling Rinne 1:52 into the game. Boudreau said that goal settled down the Ducks.
Then Vatanen gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead in the Ducks' first five shots with his try deflecting past Rinne's glove.
"Not the way that you want to start," Rinne said. "It's the first game since coming back, it's out of the way, and we can move on."
It only got worse in the second period as the Predators were on the penalty kill for nearly four minutes to start the period, including two different 5-on-3s.
Neal started the period in the box for a penalty late in the first, and the Predators killed off an interference call on Paul Gaustad and Rinne's delay of game when the puck went into the netting. After the second penalty expired, Beleskey scored on a wrister. Then Silfverberg scored his eighth of the season 43 seconds later for a 4-0 lead.
That forced Nashville to take its timeout, with coach Peter Laviolette talking to Rinne. The goalie stayed in the game.
"Staying in and battling like he did is only going to make him better," Laviolette said. "The work he got, he made some tremendous saves out there. Anybody that comes back, I think you have to kind of work through the process of being game ready, so the work was good for him tonight."
The Predators avoided the shutout when Wilson scored his 17th from in front at 4:00 of the third, and Neal scored off the rebound of his shot at 15:53 on the power play.
Laviolette pulled Rinne with about three minutes remaining, but Perry's goal sealed the win.
Notes: Boudreau said he didn't know Getzlaf's status for Friday night's game at Washington. ... The Ducks now are 25-1-5 when scoring first and came in as one of only two NHL teams without a regulation loss when leading after the first period. Anaheim improved to 17-0-2. ... Silfverberg's short-handed goal was only the third allowed by Nashville this season.