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Ducks are easy prey again for Predators

Nashville scores all its goals in the third period to beat Anaheim, 3-1, and sweep four-game season series.

March 18, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

Nashville, of course, was where it all ended for the Ducks last season.

Ah, remember the playoffs?

On Sunday, the Predators provided a stark reminder about what might have been last season and what could happen this postseason. They beat the Ducks, 3-1, at Honda Center, sweeping all four games of their season series with Anaheim.

Nothing has been decided officially, but the Predators certainly will be playing beyond April 7 and the Ducks will be left to contemplate the wonders of the draft lottery. Nashville steadily has been raising the bar in the hockey arms race and could well have KHL star Alexander Radulov in the lineup later this week, according to reports in Russia and the Tennessean.

Frankly, they aren't too bad without him. Nashville scored the last three goals, all in the third period, after falling behind, 1-0, when rookie Devante Smith-Pelly scored a short-handed goal at 7 minutes 32 seconds of the first period.

Kick-starting the Nashville rally was noted Ducks destroyer Patric Hornqvist, who struck early in the third period to tie it, 1-1, at 1:19, sneaking in behind defenseman Francois Beauchemin. It was his 23rd goal and fifth in the last seven games.

If you add the final two games of the playoffs last season, the Predators have won the last six games against the Ducks. Which leads to the question: Are they in the head of the Ducks?

"To a degree, I guess," forward Bobby Ryan said. "We know our record against them going back to the playoffs. We know they're a good team and they've beat us handily a few times.

"Seeing them four times a year, you've gotta wash it away at some point and just get past it."

Move on, yes.

Ryan was trying to do that but it wasn't easy. Not after he was called for three minor penalties, one in each period. He agreed with only one of the calls against him.

"Maybe the last call was legitimate, but I thought the other two were completely fabricated," Ryan said. "The first one, the guy that I hit told me I didn't even connect with him."

He was asked about the quality of the officiating, in terms of consistency, this season.

"I think it's been horrendous, from an inconsistent standpoint," Ryan said. "You almost don't know what you get. You gotta wave a white towel almost. It's upsetting. But it is what it is."

The Ducks were without veteran defenseman Toni Lydman, who was sidelined because of an upper-body injury. Lydman and Coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that Lydman likely would return Monday night against San Jose.

Anaheim has won only three games since Feb. 27, the NHL's trade deadline, and there are plenty of bruising lessons being learned by the rookies and younger players in the season-ending slide.

For instance, Smith-Pelly, who scored the first short-handed goal of his career, completing a two-on-one break with captain Ryan Getzlaf.

"You learn to hate it and you never want to do it again," Boudreau said. "That's what I get out of it when something like this goes on and you start losing and you get frustrated like we did a little bit at the end there.

"You remember those things for awhile. And you come back, knowing you don't want to go through that feeling again."

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