ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Stanley Cup champions are getting lots of help from their young newcomers.
Just two nights after defenseman Kent Huskins scored his NHL first goal in a win over Detroit, forwards Petteri Wirtanen and Drew Miller both netted their first Wednesday to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators.
“It’s nice to see young players score their first goal,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “It’s a tribute to the scouting staff and our management that we’re able to find these young players to come in and make a contribution.”
Wirtanen, the last player cut by Anaheim after training camp, got the go-ahead goal 4:47 into the third period. It made him the ninth player in club history to score in his NHL debut.
“It was tough waking up this morning and trying to take this as a normal game,” said Wirtanen, a sixth-round draft pick by the Ducks in 2006. “The first couple of shifts I was just trying to get my legs going. Then the scoring chance came and I put it in. It felt awesome.”
“My first thought was to shoot it right away, but it was still bouncing,” Wirtanen said. “So I had to wait and go wide and try to squeeze it in on the short side.”
Miller, playing in his third NHL game, made it 3-1 on a breakaway with 7:37 remaining. He got the puck from Andy McDonald just inside the Anaheim blue line, made a slick move away from defenseman Dan Hamhuis and raced the length of the ice before putting a short wrist shot between Mason’s legs.
“I was able to get the puck past their defenseman and tried to get some speed going,” Miller said. “Mason showed me the five-hole and I took it. It’s just nice to get that first one out of the way.”
Corey Perry connected for the Ducks in the final minute of the first period and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 28 saves in his second start of an injury-delayed season. Giguere underwent surgery Aug. 6 to repair a sports hernia and didn’t return to the lineup until last Sunday, losing 2-0 to Minnesota.
“My timing is coming back a little bit,” Giguere said. “The key thing is to keep pushing, keep practicing hard and not lose my focus.”
Perry opened the scoring just 20 seconds before the first intermission. He carried the puck from behind the net and whipped his fifth goal past Mason’s glove while Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter tied up Chris Kunitz in the crease.
Ryan Suter tied it 2:24 into the third, converting a pass from behind the net by Alexander Radulov.
“We were working hard and we couldn’t get anything going,” Suter said. “Some nights that happens.”
Mason, who allowed 15 goals in his previous three starts, got a couple of breaks in the second period. After making the save on Miller’s 40-foot wrist shot, Mason tried to poke the rebound out of harm’s way and fanned on the attempt. Miller regained possession of the puck, did a full spin in the slot and backhanded a shot just wide of the right post with Mason scrambling to get back in the crease.
“I don’t know if I got a little too excited, but the puck was kind of rolling away from me and I forced the shot too fast,” Miller said. “After I missed that one, Petteri came up to me and said, ‘I was already standing up. I thought for sure you were going to score.’ Then he gets his goal, so I couldn’t let him show me up. So I had to get the other one for my first one.”
The Predators have lost 10 of 12 games at Anaheim. The other two were overtime victories.
“Everybody was much better,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ll win our share of games if we play like that. We just have to bury our chances.”
Giguere had a 1.85 goals-against average in his previous 17 starts against Nashville. … The Ducks are 3-for-36 on the power play over their last six games after an 0-for-2 performance. … The Predators began a 10-game stretch in which they will play eight times on the road.