NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Nashville Predators left winger Viktor Arvidsson walked to the ice for Saturday night’s game, he handed out the assist of a young couple’s lifetime.
He handed an engagement ring to a woman, who then accepted her now-fiance’s marriage proposal.
About three hours later, Arvidsson and his teammates said “I do” to another two points.
Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris scored in the shootout, and Pekka Rinne stopped both Anaheim Ducks attempts as Nashville started December with the result it attained for most of November, posting a 3-2 win at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators (16-7-3) won for the 11th time in 14 games and moved into a second place tie in the Central Division with St. Louis, a point behind Winnipeg.
“It took us some time to get going, but after the first period, I thought we took over the game a little bit,” Rinne said.
Nevertheless, Nashville trailed 2-1 after Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler wired a wrister past Rinne’s stick-side at 5:01 of the third period for his third goal. It was the night’s first lead for the Ducks (11-11-5), who controlled most of the first 2 1/2 periods despite icing a roster missing five forwards due to injuries.
Then Anaheim’s Chris Wagner cross-checked Filip Forsberg post-whistle in front of goalie Ryan Miller. Up went the referee’s arm, off went Wagner to the box, and on went the Predators and their nearly 40 percent home conversion rate to the power play.
Calle Jarnkrok, getting his first man-advantage time in several games with top-line center Ryan Johansen unavailable after the midway part of the second period, cashed Wagner’s minor in. He collected the rebound of Forsberg’s shot and slotted it into the top right corner at 11:17 for his fourth goal.
Miller accused Forsberg of embellishing the contact from Wagner.
“He even bends over, anticipating the contact,” Miller said of Forsberg. “It’s too easy a call. I’d like to see the ref ... if you’re going to let us play, please do it.”
After an uneventful overtime, the teams went to the shootout. Rinne denied Corey Perry and Adam Henrique, while Miller stopped Forsberg but permitted goals to Fiala and Turris, enabling Nashville to up its home record to 10-2-1.
Miller (2-0-4) made 33 saves, including 15 in the third period as Nashville found a gear that had been missing for two periods but suffered his third straight shootout defeat.
“I thought I did what I wanted to on the first two (shots), but the second one just skipped through,” Miller said. “Then Turris just beat me with a good shot. It’s frustrating to lose multiple shootouts in a row.”
It was an early December game with a mid-May feel to it, befitting the rematch of last spring’s emotional, often chippy Western Conference final won by the Predators in six games. Post-play scrums carried the taste of playoff blood as players coupled long memories with a willingness to play the body.
“They have a very competitive team and they played hard, probably a little harder than our guys thought they might,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said of the Ducks. “I think our guys got a little more competitive after the first period.”
Fiala got Nashville on the board at 8:00 of the second period on the power play with a wrister from the left circle, marking a franchise-record 13th straight home game in which it scored with the man advantage.
Henrique, playing his second game for the Ducks, notched his first goal for them at 12:44 with Johansen in the box for roughing Antoine Vermette. Brandon Montour set him up in the high slot and Henrique smoked a one-timer by Rinne.
However, Rinne (15-4-2) finished with 33 saves, including two in the last two minutes of overtime that got the game into shootout mode and pointed Anaheim to its sixth loss in seven games.
“They don’t like us and we don’t like them,” Rinne said of the Ducks, “so it’s a good setup for a good match.”
Just like the one Arvidsson dished out for two fans before the puck dropped.
NOTES: Anaheim RW Jakob Silfverberg (upper-body injury) missed his second straight game after being injured Wednesday night in St. Louis, the latest bad news for a team that has missed a staggering 157 man-games already this season. ... Nashville’s 10-3-1 record in November netted it 21 points, tying it with Toronto for the most in the NHL during the month. ... The Ducks also scratched D Korbinian Holzer and C Kalle Kossila. ... Predators scratches were RW Miikka Salomaki and LW Pontus Aberg. LW Cody McLeod drew back into the lineup for the first time since Nov. 20.