But thanks to some spotty goaltending, a wild second period and another timely goal from Nick Ritchie, the Ducks defeated the Predators 5-3 and head to Nashville tied 1-1 in the best-of seven Western Conference final.
ABOUT THE DUCKS (54-26-11-3, 34-39 O/U): John Gibson was in net for the opening two games against Nashville previous year – ironically, both 3-2 setbacks – and never saw the ice again in the series, but no one faulted his performance Friday after he stood on his head and turned side 43 shots. Roman Josi broke a 1-1 deadlock by beating John Gibson on a power play with 2:43 remaining. Gibson was impenetrable in Russian Federation that year, giving up just two goals total in the medal round while facing shooters such as Mark Scheifele, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Hertl and, ironically, future Nashville standouts Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson.
The Predators hadn’t allowed four goals in any game during their excellent Stanley Cup playoff run before Anaheim finally got rolling for its sellout crowd.
The Ducks were back on the Honda Center ice two days after their Game 7 victory over Edmonton to reach the conference finals for the second time in three years. With about eight minutes left in the second the puck crossed the Nashville goal line however referees determined the net had been dislodged before that happened and the goal did not count. Johansen had an assist, Forsberg had a goal, and Arvidsson was everywhere as usual.
Anaheim hung on through a frenetic third period, surviving a few mad scrambles before captain Ryan Getzlaf got his third assist of the night on Vermette’s empty-netter.
The Ducks took advantage of their first power play to score with 4:25 left in the second period. He then blinded John Gibson with a textbook screen on the second goal, to the point where the Anaheim goalie had no idea where the puck was or who even had it.
“I mean he just blows my mind”, Johansen, who took a high-sticking penalty on Kesler, said of the extra treatment he’s received from the Anaheim centre.
It was the sixth straight home playoff win for the Predators, who are the NHL’s only unbeaten team at home.
The Ducks see the problem as largely mental, and they intend to address it in the hours before the series resumes.
“Well, I think the shots against tonight, I just have one tidbit that at one point it was 9-8 for us”. After sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks and defeating the St. Louis Blues in stride, the Nashville Predators continue their battle to the top against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Nashville’s Ryan Johansen chirped and exchanged slashes, as well as other forms of creative stick work.
After the Ducks took consecutive delay-of-game penalties moments later for putting the puck in the stands, Gibson and his shot-blockers were outstanding while Anaheim survived 1:28 with a 5-on-3 disadvantage.
Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Somehow I feel if the Penguins let another one slip to overtime, they could be given a double dose of Bobby Ryan clutch juice. We have to stay on for Game 2, and we know now we’ll have that home-ice advantage again.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette lamented his team allowing two goals within 1:39 near the end of the first and the start of the second period.
The Predators have been a model of consistency while going 9-2 in the postseason, and they think much of the credit should be placed on a defensive corps that might be the best in the playoffs.
Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, in which the Anaheim Ducks have proven to be kings of the comeback. “They played hard at our net, bumping our goalie all night long, and we didn’t do a good enough job getting inside”. Start better. Got to.