Two quick strikes help struggling Ducks end winless skid
As Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau described the sense of relief on his bench after scoring the first goal early in the first period, he sounded more like a man relaying the sense of continued disappointment.
"You could see the air go out of our guys, `Whew,'" Boudreau said after Chris Stewart had a goal and two assists, Frederick Andersen stopped 40 shots, and the Ducks beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 Sunday night.
Rickard Rakell, Sami Vatanen and Andrew Cogliano also scored to help the Ducks snap a five-game skid (0-4-1) and get their second win in 11 games (2-8-2).
"We're going to sleep good tonight," Rakell said.
Shea Weber and Calle Jarnkrok had Nashville's goals and Carter Hutton stopped 24 shots. The Predators, coming off a 4-3 overtime defeat at Los Angeles the previous night, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
After scoring just 10 goals in 10 games, the Ducks broke out of their funk with their second four-goal effort of the season.
Rakell finished off a strong early stretch of possession anchored by Stewart and Jiri Sekac with his second goal of the season. Rakell found himself all alone behind the net with the puck before burying a backhand shot past Carter Hutton just 1:11 into the game to give the home team some much-needed confidence.
"When you are a team that is struggling, playing from the lead is an awful lot easier than playing from behind," Boudreau said.
The Ducks did not let up, with Vatanen unleashing his big slap shot from outside the circle to make it 2-0 midway through the first period. Stewart picked up his second assist of the game on the play.
With the Predators still reeling, Cogliano capitalized 12 seconds later. He took Jakob Silfverberg's pass, cut between distracted defenders Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm down the middle of the ice and scored for a 3-0 lead.
It was the Ducks' fastest scoring blitz since getting two goals in 11 seconds against Vancouver on Jan. 19, 2013.
While the Ducks are still waiting on goals from their top players like Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler, the line of Stewart, Rakell, and Sekac picked up the slack.
"I'd take scoring from anybody," Boudreau said. "When we start getting those contributions from everybody, I think we'll be ok."
Weber got the Predators going on the power play, scoring 5:23 into the second period. It was only the fourth goal allowed by the Ducks' penalty kill, entering the game with the league's second-best mark at 90.9 percent.
Stewart pushed the Ducks' lead back to three when he jammed home a rebound. Hutton stopped Korbinian Holzer's initial shot, but the puck trickled across the crease and right to Stewart for his first goal since signing with Anaheim as a free agent.
"A little later to score the first one than you expected, but it's good to help the team win and got to start somewhere," Stewart said. "It's a step in the right direction."
Jarnkrok added the other Nashville goal late in the second period.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette could only salute the desperate Ducks afterwards.
"I've told the guys that I've been in games where you are down 3-0 because you forgot to come out of the locker room. That wasn't the case tonight," Laviolette said. "They were opportunistic, they came out hungry."
Notes: Despite holding a 3-0-1 record and .945 save percentage against Western Conference opponents this season, Predators G Pekka Rinne got the afternoon off. ... Predators F Miikka Salomaki made his first career start. It was only Salomaki's second NHL appearance, as he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery playing for the Predators' AHL affiliate last season. ... The Predators won 5-1 at home on Oct. 22, and the teams will conclude their three-game season series Nov. 17 in Nashville. ... Sekac left the game with a lower-body injury. ... Anaheim's other win was 4-1 against Minnesota on Oct. 18.