Anaheim Ducks center Saku Koivu, top, of Finland, falls over Nashville Predators center Jerred Smithson (25) during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, March 24, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Trying to get a teammate a hat trick nearly cost the Nashville Predators a victory.
Sergei Kostitsyn scored two goals, both in the first period, and the Predators tried to get him one more in the closing minutes while holding on for a 5-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks 5-4 on Thursday night.
"Everybody was trying to get Sergei the hat trick," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It's not the time of the year or the team that you want to do that against."
While the Predators were being good teammates, the Ducks scored three third-period goals, two in the last 4:46 of the game.
"They tried to feed him twice for the hat trick and it didn't work," Trotz said. "Anaheim came back and countered and almost scored both times. That's what frustrates me. The game was still in a little bit of doubt."
The Predators held on, but that was about all Trotz was pleased with.
"We got the two points," Trotz said. "It might have been the biggest game of the year for us. We had a chance to go head-to-head against a team that was chasing us. It was a four-point game. It was a regulation win. We can control our actions, but we weren't as detailed as we needed to be. I'm happy with the two points, but I'm not happy with the way we mismanaged the third period."
Anaheim's Teemu Selanne twice scored on the power play in the third period, both in 5-on-3 situations.
Corey Perry also scored two goals and added an assists for Anaheim. Ryan Getzlaf added three assists.
"It starts there," Trotz said. "You look at the power play with Teemu Selanne, who has scored about a million goals in this league, Ryan Getzlaf, Perry, Saku Koivu and Lubomir Visnovsky—they are going to score. That's a pretty good unit."
With 1:40 left in the second period, Tootoo took a shot in the slot that bounced off the leg pads of Dan Ellis and into the net to give the Predators a 4-1 lead.
"It's been a while since I scored a goal, so it was nice to get the monkey off my back," Tootoo said. "It's great to contribute offensively, but it is a team effort."
The Predators stretched the lead to 5-1 in the third period as David Legwand scored a short-handed goal that bounced off the far post and in at 9:29.
Anaheim scored 10 seconds later on the power play as Selanne skated in and shot the puck just under the cross bar. At 15:24, Selanne struck again on the power play as the puck bounced off of Nashville's Ryan Suter and into the net.
Perry was credited with his 42nd goal with 27 seconds left as the puck bounced off the skate of Suter, who appeared to kick the puck under the crossbar.
"Suter got two goals," said Trotz who also complimented Suter's kicking ability. "I wish he had used his hand either to catch it or move it. On Selanne's goal, Suter stuck his arm out and it hit his glove and misdirected."
For the second game in a row, the Predators opened the scoring. At 2:04 of the first period Patric Hornqvist took a shot from the left side of the net. The puck bounced off Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller and bounced around in front of the goal. Kostitsyn tapped it into the open side of the net as Hiller was slow to recover after stopping Hornqvist's shot.
Spaling gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at the 11:18 mark. Jonathon Blum took a shot that went wide to the left of the net and bounced off the back wall. Spaling skated in from the left side and shot the puck under Hiller's outstretched leg pad from close range.
Kostitsyn scored his second goal of the night 19 seconds later. Hornqvist took a shot from inside the right board above the faceoff circle. Kostitsyn, stationed in front of the goal, redirected the puck into the net.
After that goal, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle removed Hiller from the game and replaced him with Ellis, a former Predators goaltender. Hiller faced seven shots.
Perry answered for the Ducks with a goal at 16:01 of the first period. With Nashville's Pekka Rinne moving toward right side of the goal, Bobby Ryan saw Perry standing to the left side of the crease. Perry put the puck in from a couple of feet out before Rinne could recover.
"We battled and battled and battled," Carlyle said. "Specifically, itwas our start that killed us. You can't give up three goals in an important game like this."
Notes: The Predators scored in the first period for the ninth time in 10 games, holding a 16-6 goals edge against their opponents in the first 20 minutes. ... Hiller was playing his first game since being activated from injured reserve Wednesday after missing 15 games due to vertigo issues. ... It was the 451st NHL career win for Nashville coach Barry Trotz which moved him into the top 20 in all-time coaching victories.