Ducks avoid meltdown, edge Preds in OT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Contrary to what some might have thought, the Anaheim Ducks’ locker room after the third period Thursday night wasn’t a morgue.
Sure, Anaheim blew a 2-0 lead in the final 6 1/2 minutes of regulation, enabling the Nashville Predators to force overtime. But the Ducks also didn’t figure things were lost just because they failed to close it out after 60 minutes.
“We look at a check list every single game, and adversity is one of the (categories),” Ducks right winger Corey Perry said. “Going into OT, we had to put that (third) period behind us. We just put some pucks in deep in the zone, and we caught a break.”
Perry, specifically, caught the big break. His wrister from the right circle struck Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban and snuck past goalie Pekka Rinne at 10:25 of overtime, giving Anaheim a 3-2 win and allowing the Ducks to tie the best-of-seven Western Conference finals at 2-2.
The goal was originally credited to Nate Thompson, although replays showed that Thompson never touched the puck. Anaheim asked the NHL after the game to change the goal to Perry, and it did so nearly an hour later.
Regardless, the Ducks lifted home-ice advantage from the Predators, whose 10-game home winning streak over the last two postseasons was snapped. Game 5 of the series is Saturday in Anaheim.
It was Perry’s fourth goal of the playoffs, his third game-winner. The goal silenced the audience of 17,423, the largest home crowd in Nashville franchise history, that about 30 minutes of real time earlier reached a decibel level equivalent to that of a jet plane when Filip Forsberg poked home his rebound at 19:25 to cap a frantic rally and send the game to overtime.
“It’s funny how things work out when you stick with it,” Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said. “It was our best game of the series. I thought we deserved to win.”
Anaheim was certainly the best team most of the night, putting its stamp on the game with a dominant first period. The Ducks outshot the Predators 14-2 through 20 minutes, controlling possession for long stretches and winning most of the physical battles.
Rickard Rakell gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead, catching Nashville in a bad line change and getting plenty of space down the left wing. His blistering slapper beat Rinne blocker side for Rakell’s seventh playoff goal.
Nashville pushed back in the second period, but Nick Ritchie made it 2-0 at 10:22, wiring a wrister from the right faceoff circle for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
As the third period progressed, the Predators chased the game desperately. They drew four minor penalties from Anaheim, failing to capitalize on 6:11 of power-play time. But they still conjured a comeback that appeared to change momentum for good.
Subban blasted a slapper from the right point off the right post, off goalie John Gibson’s arm and into the net at 13:33 to make it 2-1. Then, with a sixth skater on the ice, Forsberg scored his seventh goal of the playoffs and his third in as many games.
“Just the ebbs and flows of the postseason,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We wanted to establish a strong start, and we did. You have to credit the players for what happened in overtime. They’re the ones putting it on the line. We had to reset ourselves.”
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said the winning goal was a lucky bounce but conceded the first period was an issue that colored his team’s performance.
“That wasn’t the period we wanted to play,” he said. “The guys know what we’re capable of. ... We have a standard of play which we measure ourselves (by), and we weren’t close to it.”
Gibson finished with 32 saves, while Rinne turned back 34 of 37 shots.
NOTES: Anaheim D Kevin Bieksa drew into the lineup for Game 4 after sitting out the previous nine games due to a lower-body injury. ... Nashville RW PA Parenteau replaced LW Harry Zolnierczyk on the fourth line, playing for just the third time in the postseason. ... The Ducks scratched C Sam Carrick, D Korbinian Holzer, D Clayton Stoner, RW Patrick Eaves (lower body) and C Logan Shaw (lower body). ... The Predators’ scratches in addition to Zolnierczyk were D Anthony Bitetto, RW Craig Smith (undisclosed), D Brad Hunt, C Frederick Gaudreau and C Vernon Fiddler.