Nashville leads Western Conference Final 2-1
The Nashville Predators followed a simple rule Tuesday night in Nashville. They needed an extra goal, and a doubling of shot opportunities paved the way to their getting it.
“We have to win 2-1 games, one-goal games, etc.” this is the common refrain in the modern NHL, especially at playoff time. The Predators took the most effective route to getting the extra goal in Game 3, to take a 2-1 series lead, shooting the puck at exactly twice the rate of the Ducks.
Score: 2-1. Shots: Nashville, 40, Ducks, 20 (in the aggregate, including missed and blocked shots, it was 75-38). Nashville outshot Anaheim 17-9 in the first period; 11-4 during the second; 12-7 in the third.
The Ducks started very strong, with fluid clears and defensive zone exits, but the shots did not come. The Ducks wanted to start strong, and they did, but long stretches without a shot proved their undoing. The fact that the Ducks had to block 22 shots while the Predators blocked only seven is revealing.
Gibson came close to stealing the game, but that effort was squandered when an errant stick by Chris Wagner that met Ryan Ellis’ face in front of the Anaheim net at 16:05 of the third period led to a Roman Josi shot from the left faceoff circle that got past a swimming Gibson.
The Ducks’ bright spot was Corey Perry’s goal at 15:35 of the second period, a hard-angle shot from almost at the goal line. It bounced off the inside of Pekka Rinne’s right pad, and into the net to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead.
With a relentless forecheck, the Predators have been able to exhibit their trademark speed in each of the three games thus far, the Ducks controlling play only sporadically.
“Sometimes in games like that, you get frustrated,” said Predators center Mike Fisher. “You’re pressing. Their goaltender was good, and the key is just stick with it and believe you’re going to get one at some point if you keep going, and that’s kind of what we did. We just didn’t give up.”
“We didn’t attack the neutral ice with speed,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “And that’s one of our trademarks. When we play well, we’re a hockey club that can get through the neutral ice with skating the puck plus moving it. And we didn’t do it very well tonight.”
With the last shift at his disposal, Preds coach Peter Laviolette was able to get Ryan Johansen away from pest Ryan Kesler more often than he did in Anaheim. But on the game-tying goal, Johansen’s line topped Kesler’s, tying the game at 1-1 on Filip Forsberg’s goal at 3:54 of the third.
“Their goaltender, I thought, played well and gave them a chance to hang in there and win a hockey game,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “But going out for the third, I think our guys stepped on the gas a little bit more and continued to push in the offensive zone.”
“We knew we played a good game,” said Josi. “We had a lot of chances and a lot of shots. We knew we had to play the same way and they’re going to go in sometime. Doesn’t matter what happens, we just try to stay positive and just stay with it.”
Game 4 is Thursday at 5pm in Nashville.
UPDATE (10:16:55PM PT) Ducks coach Randy Carlyle questioned the official shot count:
“Well, I think the shots against tonight, I just have one tidbit that at one point it was 9-8 for us. And on one flurry it went to 14. So I don’t know who is counting the shots, but they dominated the shot clock tonight. I’m not going to say they didn’t. But in reference — I didn’t think they had five shots in net, and then next thing you know they’ve got 14. It was out of sequence. There was one sequence, I think, they got one shot and a little bit of a scramble, and all of a sudden they had four more shots at it. I don’t know who was keeping it, but he better get a pair of glasses.”
Quotes from NHL PR used in this report/update