ANAHEIM, Calif. – Getting back on the Anaheim Ducks’ top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf made all the difference for Kyle Palmieri.
Palmieri ended a 10-game goal drought with his first NHL hat trick, Viktor Fasth made 20 saves, and the Pacific Division leaders beat the Nashville Predators 5-1 Wednesday night for their seventh straight home victory.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for me, but I hope that this gives me the confidence to put together a nice little hot streak,” Palmieri said.
Nick Bonino and Saku Koivu also scored for Anaheim. Perry and Getzlaf assisted on all three goals by Palmieri, who hadn’t scored since netting back-to-back game-winners on Feb. 1-2.
“They’re two phenomenal players and definitely two of the best in the world, so it’s an honour to be on their line and be on ice with them,” Palmieri said. “Those guys are also phenomenal playmakers as well as goal-scorers.
“I just knew I had to get out there and work hard and find those areas. I knew that if I was open, they’d give me the puck.”
Palmieri completed his outburst against Pekka Rinne 1:07 into the second period, during a power play after Nashville had too many men on the ice.
“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Palmieri said. “It was kind of a quick play there, and I wasn’t actually sure if it went in. But when the ref game the signal, it was a pretty awesome feeling.”
It was the sixth natural hat trick in club history and marked the third career multigoal game for the 22-year-old forward, selected by the Ducks in the first round of the 2009 draft.
“Last year I was up and down from the minors quite a few times and couldn’t quite find my home in the lineup,” Palmieri said. “But this year I came in knowing I wanted to be here and I was going to work and do whatever it took to stay here.”
Anaheim (14-3-1) tied Montreal for the second-most points in the NHL behind Chicago’s 35. The Ducks have won seven of eight, losing only to Los Angeles on Monday.
“We just turned the page,” Getzlaf said. “In this short season, if you can resist losing two in a row, it changes a lot of things.”
Rinne gave up five goals on 21 shots before he was replaced at the start of the third period.
Craig Smith scored Nashville’s goal.
Rinne allowed at least four goals for the third game in a row after coming in with a 1.90 goals-against average and a league-best three shutouts.
Rinne was 7-0-2 with a 1.58 GAA in his previous nine starts against Anaheim—both losses coming this season in shootouts.
“We didn’t put pressure in the other team at all. We made it easy for them,” Smith said after the opener of a three-game California trip. “We have to get back to work and try to sort this thing out.”
The Predators fell behind 2-0 before getting their first shot at 6:11 of the first period.
“We were able to catch them on a very tired night,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It was their fourth game in six nights and they were flying cross-country, so they didn’t look like they had the normal energy that a Nashville team does.”
Anaheim’s first goal came on a dump-in play, as Rinne mishandled the puck behind the net. Rookie Emerson Etem, recalled from the minors on Tuesday, came in hard and fed a pass in front to Bonino, who scored his fifth goal of the season at 2:48.
“We’ve had pretty bad starts lately, so it’s nice when one pops to you between the hash marks in front of an open net to get it going,” Bonino said. “It was huge.
“We have a good team here and everyone knows it.”
The assist was Etem’s third in nine NHL games. He started the season in the minors, then returned there for five games before he and centre Peter Holland switched places.
“He brought a lot of energy to the game. There’s no doubt,” Boudreau said of Etem. “He did it the first time he was here and he got two assists in his third game. I think he feels more comfortable coming back for the second time.”
Palmieri finished off a 2-on-2 rush with Perry 61 seconds later, getting a pass in the left circle and swerving around Predators captain Shea Weber before cutting in front of the crease and jamming the puck past Rinne’s outstretched left leg at 3:49.
“That was our worst performance of the year,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We were down 2-0 right off the bat, and after that we had no bite and no fight. That’s not like us. I thought we might pull it together in the second period, but we didn’t. I was a little surprised at that. This is an important trip.”
Palmieri connected again at 16:57 of the first, converting Perry’s pass from behind the net after Getzlaf won a faceoff in the Nashville zone.
“Kile’s had a couple of chances in the last few games wasn’t able to score, so it was great that he was able to,” Boudreau said. “When he’s scoring goals, and Bones is scoring goals, and you’re getting them from guys that aren’t normally your leading scorers, it’s good for us.”
NOTES: The first-period goals by Bonino and Palmieri gave Anaheim nine players with five or more, the most of any team. … Palmieri is the second-youngest player to get a hat trick for the Ducks. The youngest was Bobby Ryan, who did it at age 21 on Jan. 8, 2009, in Los Angeles. … The Ducks’ home winning streak is their longest since a club-record 11-game stretch in the 2009-10 season. … The Ducks were 11-2 in February, tying the franchise record for wins in a month. … The Predators were 0 for 10 on the power play during the Ducks’ three-game, season-series sweep. … Palmieri’s final goal ended a run of 15 unsuccessful power plays by the Ducks against Nashville in the regular season. … Anaheim C Daniel Winnik, the first player in franchise history with five goals in the first four games, hasn’t scored in 14 games since. … The Ducks are 8 for 14 on the power play in their last four games.