NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Austin Watson had a difficult time remembering the last time he scored a hat trick — at any level.
"American Hockey League, maybe?" Watson said. "A couple of years now."
Watson, known as a grinder who is strong on the penalty kill, recorded his first career NHL hat trick Sunday night as Nashville defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-2.
Watson, a 26-year-old right wing, became the fourth Predators player to record a hat trick this season, a franchise record.
"It's always nice to score goals and contribute," said Watson, who entered the game with just one goal. "As hockey players, that's what we like to do."
Watson usually spends his time on the third and fourth lines, but he moved up to the first and second lines against Anaheim due to an undisclosed injury to center Kyle Turris.
He scored the game's first goal in the opening period, added his first career power-play goal in the second period and his empty netter with 1:06 left prompted the sellout crowd of 17,167 at Bridgestone Arena to shower the ice with caps.
"To get an opportunity to play with (Ryan Johansen) and (Filip Forsberg), two really gifted hockey players, and then I was out there with (Colton Sissons) and (Nick Bonino), we had some good success," Watson said. "It was a fun night."
Watson returned from an 18-game suspension for domestic violence two weeks ago.
"I think it was just a matter of getting back on the ice and getting his timing back," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "He was in shape when he started, but there's something about the game and the way it moves and getting your game-timing down from moving the puck, reading the plays, reading the situations. So we've been giving him more opportunity with regard to ice time, penalty kill."
Nick Bonino and Craig Smith also scored for the Predators.
Nashville, which began Sunday tied for the NHL's best record, won its sixth straight home game.
Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase scored for the Ducks.
"We took numerous penalties and it became a game we shouldn't have played," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "I think we took four straight minors and they had a 4-on-3 for an extended period of time. It kind of takes everybody out of the game."
Nashville's Pekka Rinne made 17 saves for the win, improving his career record to 17-6-1 against Anaheim.
John Gibson stopped 28 shots for the Ducks, who had their two-game winning streak halted.
Watson gave the Predators a 1-0 lead when he poked a rebound from the left side of the net over Gibson's outstretched stick into the net at 11:04 of the first period.
Anaheim tied it at 1 on a power-play goal by Henrique, whose wrist shot from the low slot beat a screened Rinne on the stickside at 2:38 of the second period, while Matt Irwin was in the penalty box for tripping.
Nashville regained a 2-1 advantage on a Bonino breakaway, when he fired a wobbly wrist shot from the left faceoff circle into the top right corner of the net over Gibson's glove at 5:38 of the second.
Watson deflected Roman Josi's one-timer into the net from the left side of the crease on the power play, increasing the Predators lead to 3-1 with 1:24 left in the second period. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle challenged the goal for goaltender interference, but it stood after video review.
Anaheim retaliated 79 seconds later when Kase beat Rinne stickside from the low slot, narrowing the deficit to 3-2.
Nashville's second power-play goal, this one from a sprawling Smith in the low slot, boosted the Predators' lead to 4-2 at 2:52 of the third period.
NOTES: Nashville recalled C Rocco Grimaldi from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League and put Turris on injured reserve. Turris entered the game third on the team with 16 points. C Calle Jarnkrok was moved to the second line in place of Turris. D P.K. Subban (upper body) and RW Viktor Arvidsson (broken thumb) are also on injured reserve. . The Ducks recalled D Andre Sustr and Welinski from San Diego of the AHL . Four of Anaheim's previous six games went into overtimes or shootouts. . Anaheim gave Nashville its first road loss on Nov. 12, in a shootout after Predators had won first eight games for a franchise record.
Anaheim: Visits Tampa Bay on Tuesday in second of a five-game road trip.
Nashville: Hosts Colorado on Tuesday in the second of a five-game homestand, the longest of the season.