ANAHEIM – Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is fond of saying you never criticize a win, so he’ll be holding his tongue after this one.
The Ducks lost one-goal leads four different times, only to finally clinch a 5-4 victory over the struggling Nashville Predators when defenseman Paul Mara scored an improbable goal with 1.7 seconds on the clock. It was the first goal in a Ducks uniform for Mara, acquired by Anaheim over the summer.
"Two points is two points," Carlyle said. "We’re not going to lament any other part of it. It was one of those games that seemed like we had to work for every inch. Every time we got a lead, they came back. We sure kept the fans in the building."
After losing a one-goal lead on a tally by Preds center Cal O’Reilly with 3:47 left in the game, the Ducks seemed destined to head into overtime as the puck bounced into the Nashville end with just seconds remaining. But Bobby Ryan picked up the puck deep on the right wing and threw a blind pass to the top of the crease, where a pinching Mara one-timed it through to draw a deafening roar from the Honda Center crowd.
"I knew going out we didn’t have a whole lot of time," Ryan said. "It worked out for the best. Paul made a great play jumping in with a nice finish. The defenseman was trying to cut across and just got a piece of it, maybe a little too much. It came right to me. Everything came just the way we needed to there."
Added Mara, "I looked up at the clock and I saw there were eight or nine seconds left. Bobby got it and I just kept jumping to the net. It was bouncing right there and I just put it into an empty net. It was a great play by those guys. I was just in the right place at the right time."
It notched a third straight triumph for the Ducks, whose victories on Wednesday (Tampa Bay) and Friday nights (Pittsurgh) had marked their first back-to-back wins this season. It was the fifth straight defeat for Nashville.
"It was an ugly game, certainly not one we want to put in the archives, that's for sure." Ryan said. "We have to do a better job in front of Hillsy [goalie Jonas Hiller] and a better job managing the puck through the neutral zone. It’s something we’ll focus on."
The Ducks never trailed in the game, but each time they inched in front, Nashville would answer. Anaheim opened the thrilling third period with a Lubomir Visnovsky goal just 49 seconds in, as he picked up a loose puck and whipped a wrist shot past goalie Anders Lindback to make it 3-2.
But Nashville came back at 6:15 when the Ducks failed to clear the puck and Cody Franson fired a shot from the point that deflected off Ducks d-man Cam Fowler and fooled Hiller.
The Ducks went up yet again when Saku Koivu got his second of the night, just as a Nashville penalty expired. Koivu got a piece of a Toni Lydman point shot enough to have it kick off Lindback and flutter under the crossbar. It was the 700th career point for Koivu and it gave the Ducks a 4-3 lead.
But they couldn’t carry that advantage to the final horn, as O’Reilly one-timed a Franson pass from deep in the corner to make it 4-4, setting the stage for Ryan and Mara’s miracle winner.
Anaheim leads were also wiped out by the Predators twice in a first period that finished deadlocked at 2-2.
The Ducks got on top just 52 seconds into the game, when a bad Nashville change left them with just four men on the ice, and the Ducks took advantage. An Andreas Lilja slap shot was tipped by Ryan and bounced off Lindback right to Teemu Selanne, who easily deposited it into the open net.
Nashville erased the lead less than two minutes later, as Patrick Hornqvist tipped an O’Reilly point shot past Hiller.
Anaheim got its lead back when Selanne made a nice feed from in deep to Koivu, who one-timed it under Lindback’s arm, and the Preds goalie helped it through with his own stick.
But Nashville tied it again with 2:44 left in the period, as a bad Ryan pass was intercepted by Hornqvist, and he fed ahead to Steve Sullivan, who deked to the backhand and roofed it.
The win was a bit of payback for a 4-1 Ducks defeat in Nashville back on October 9. Now the Ducks will be looking for more revenge when they face the Sharks in San Jose in two nights.
GAME NOTES The Ducks have won three straight games overall and have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven contests at HOME, earning 11 of a possible 14 points. By comparison, in 2009-10, the Ducks went 2-5-0 in their first seven HOME games, earning four out of a possible 14 points.
By adding 1-1=2 points tonight, Teemu Selanne now ranks tied for fifth (with Ryan Getzlaf and Chicago’s Patrick Sharp) in the NHL in scoring with 7-10=17 points. Selanne has earned 2-5=7 points over the last four contests, 5-8=13 points over the last nine and 7-10=17 in the last 12.
Saku Koivu had his first multi-goal game (2-0=2) of the season and first since Apr. 2, 2010 vs. Vancouver. It was his 23rd career multi-goal game. His second goal tonight marked his 700th career NHL point (215-485=700).
Lubomir Visnovsky has a three-game point streak (1-4=5), including a goal in tonight’s contest. He has earned 2-9=11 points over the last nine contests and 2-11=13 over the last 12.
With tonight’s game-winning goal, Paul Mara scored his first point of the season and first goal since Feb. 11, 2009 with the New York Rangers at Washington. It was the third game-winning goal of his career (last: Nov. 5, 2000 w/TB vs. WSH).
Bobby Ryan has a three-game point streak (1-4=5) and 4-5=9 points over the last seven contests.
With an assist on tonight’s game-winning goal, Corey Perry extended his point streak to four contests (1-4=5). He has 2-5=7 in the last six and 5-10=15 in the last 12.
Jonas Hiller won his third straight contest (3-0-0) and has gone 5-2-0 with a 2.39 GAA (16 GA/401 MIN) and .926 SV% (199-of-215) over that seven-game stretch.
Tonight’s attendance was 13,520.
20:00 - END OF GAME - The clock hits zero off the faceoff as the Ducks finish a thrilling, if not pretty, 5-4 victory.
19:58 - ANAHEIM GOAL - PAUL MARA - With the clock heading toward zero and OT seeming imminent, Ryan picks up a loose puck at the bottom of the right wing circle and throws a blind pass to the top of the crease, where a pinching Mara is right there to one-time it home, lighting this crowd on fire. It's 5-4 Ducks with 1.8 left.
Rocky music coming out of the timeout.
16:32 - NSH Penalty - Jordan Tootoo, 2 min. slashing. Two for Tootoo, who wears twenty-two at sixteen thirty-two. Big opportunity for the Ducks.
16:13 - NASHVILLE GOAL - CAL O'REILLY - The Preds attack after the penalty ends, as Franson sends the puck on net from the corner, where Goc gets a piece of it and O'Reilly puts the blade down to redirect it through. We're tied yet again, 4-4.
13:55 - NSH Penalty - Steve Sullivan, 2 min. hooking. Give credit to that penalty to Visnovsky, who jets with the puck into the Nashville end and draws the hook from behind.
10:05 - ANAHEIM GOAL - SAKU KOIVU - Right as the penalty expires, Lydman fires a wrist shot from the left wing that Koivu gets a piece of with the shaft of his stick. It hits Lindback and flutters behind him just under the crossbar. Big goal for Anaheim and it's 4-3. Second of the night for Koivu and it's his 700th point.
9:50 - Selanne tips a puck in mid-air that actually hits the water bottle. Unfortunately, it was on the wrong side of the net.
8:35 - Visnovsky just misses putting in a rebound, as he can't lift it over Lindback and then misses the net with a second effort at it.
8:05 - NSH Penalty - Shane O'Brien, 2 min. holding. Visnovsky nearly gets another, as he uses the body to get into position on the rush and almost slips it under Lindback. But former Duck O'Brien gets tagged with the hold trying to defend.
7:05 - Parros gets literally tackled to the ice by Boullion behind the Nashville net and doesn't look too pleased about it.
6:15 - NASHVILLE GOAL - CODY FRANSON - After the Ducks can't clear the puck. Franson fires a shot from the right point that may have been tipped by Fowler on its way to the net. Either way, it fools Hiller, who doesn't react quickly enough before it gets by him on the stick side. We're tied again.
5:07 - Ryan fires a surprising shot that nearly gets by Lindback.
Note from Ducks PR: As of this moment Teemu is T-5th (tied with Getzlaf and Sharp) in the NHL in scoring with 7-10=17 points. One interesting note, the second-oldest player on today’s scoring leaders (top 15) is Joe Thornton, who is 31 (Selanne is 40).
0:49 - ANAHEIM GOAL - LUBOMIR VISNOVSKY - Parros battles behind the net and tries to jam it through, but it's knocked away by a couple of Preds into the slot, where Visnovsky jumps on the loose puck and quickly whips it past Lindback glove side. Ducks take a quick 3-2 lead.
0:00 - Off and running in an all-important third.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - A relatively uneventful middle session ends the same way it started, 2-2.
19:56 - With just a few seconds left, Ryan desperately throws it on net and nearly gets it through.
19:04 - Nice stop by Hiller on a Sullivan shot with Hornqvist all over him. Slight scuffle after he covers, but nothing much.
16:10 - Ducks nearly get one as a cleared puck takes a weird hop and Lindback has to flail to stop it.
16:01 - ANA Penalty - Ryan Carter, 2 min. interference.
It's time to play Guess that Duck, with the blurry photo of one Duck and the hint, Which of these Finnish players was born in Lahti, Finland? Is it Selanne, Lydman or Koivu? Looks like Koivu to me, but if it's Lahti, it's Lydman. It seems to be split evenly between the texting guessers, who eventually learn that it's Lydman.
13:35 - Visnovsky gets in deep and flips a shot that nearly gets behind Lindback.
12:39 - ANA Penalty - Nick Bonino, 2 min. holding. Nevermind on that Ducks power play.
12:25 - NSH Penalty - J.P. Dumont, 2 min. hooking. Dumont gets the stick into Koivu as they chase the puck along the wall. It wipes out Nashville's power play and the Ducks will get one of their own. First penalty on Nashville tonight.
11:07 - ANA Penalty - Teemu Selanne, 2 min. holding. As the crowd is looking for something to cheer, they light up when Selanne drills Bouillion into the wall, but the official sees a hold on the play. Not sure.
9:30 - Getzlaf makes a nice touch pass from the slot to Visnovsky, who can't bury the one-timer.
5:51 - Fowler makes a great stretch pass from out of his own end to set up Bonino, but the rush is halted by an iffy offside call. Crowd not pleased.
4:30 - Hiller is able to knock down a Sullivan shot, and is in the right place to deny Bouillion's rebound try.
0:00 - Here we go in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - A bittersweet first 20 for the Ducks finally comes to an end, with a 2-2 tie.
17:16 - NASHVILLE GOAL - STEVE SULLIVAN - Ryan makes a bad pass in his own end, giving it away to Hornqvist, who quickly gets it ahead to Sullivan in the slot. He dekes to the backhand to get Hiller to move before roofing it. It's 2-2.
16:50 - Perry decides to whip the shot on a rush, but Lindback knocks it away.
12:20 - Ducks escape as Nashville has a couple of chances at a goal with Hiller scrambling.
10:49 - ANAHEIM GOAL - SAKU KOIVU - Selanne makes a nice feed in front to Koivu, who one-times it under Lindback's arm, and he helps it in behind himself with his own stick. It's 2-1 Ducks on the fourth of the year by Koivu.
9:25 - Hiller faces a lot of shots in a row, a few wide of the net, however.
7:30 - Ducks kind of bat the puck around table hockey style to the point where it's just barely out of Selanne's reach in front of the net.
4:59 - ANA Penalty - Toni Lydman, 2 min. roughing. Lydman gives Hornqvist an extra shove in the back following a check in front of the benches.
2:34 - NASHVILLE GOAL - PATRIC HORNQVIST - Preds come right back when Cal O'Reilly wrists a shot from the point that deflects off Vinovsky's leg and is tipped in front by Hornqvist enough to fool Hiller. Crowd is absolutely silent in reaction to that goal, in contrast to Friday night when Pittsburgh was here. It's 1-1.
0:52 - ANAHEIM GOAL - TEEMU SELANNE - The Preds make a bad change, leaving them with only four guys on the ice when Andreas Lilja slaps a shot that Ryan tips on its way to the net. It hits Lindback awkwardly, bouncing right to Selanne, who easily deposits it into the wide open net. Ducks take advantage of a Preds miscue and it's 1-0 early.
0:00 - And we're underway at Honda Center.
5:07 p.m. - The pleasant-looking Taylor Courtney does an admirable job on the anthem tonight. Let's call her my second-favorite singer named Taylor. Yeah, that's right, I said it.
No Pekka Rinne in net tonight for Nashville. Guess I can't make my go-to "with marinara sauce" joke. Starters in bold/italics. Scratches crossed out.