The Predators then hammered away to take a 2-1 lead midway through the second period behind goals from Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson.
The Nashville Predators certainly appeared to have an advantage over the Anaheim Ducks heading into the start of the Western Conference Final on Friday. The Ducks to me have a deeper roster up front than the Preds and will have to take advantage of that tonight if they're going to salvage a split on home ice as Nashville has the edge on the blue line and in the crease and if they can find a way to be better in the offensive third than the Ducks than this could be a quick series.
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. And the one thing that we've stated is that the will that has been demonstrated by the penalty killing units that our power play has been up against has exceeded our power play's will. "It gave them a lot of momentum and sucked the life out of us, so we need to make sure that we turn that around (in Game 2)". "We're obviously two competitive guys, but once this is all wrapped up, I'll get a chance to talk to him and just tell him that I'm happy for him and he deserves it".
"I think it's great", the winger said of the victory. We've looked at every game throughout the playoffs as just the next game.
Game two of what will undoubtedly be a fantastic Western Conference final is slated for Sunday at 7:30 EST. For a fleeting moment two minutes into the game, the overhead scoreboards listed the Ducks as having 99 shots on goal instead of the one they actually had at that point.
Almost half of the third period went by before someone could find the back of the net, and that someone was Hampus Lindholm, who scored his first postseason goal of the year to tie the game at two.
Neal put a long shot past a sprawled Gibson after a prolonged threat by the Predators that left Anaheim's defense in disarray.
While the injury-riddled Ducks are attempting to thrive with six defensemen under 26 years old, Nashville's top four defensemen are the high-scoring backbone of its roster.
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"Well, there's only a couple of ways you can do that", Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "But it was a good feeling to see it go in". "This time of year you can't have excuses", Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm told the Orange County Register. What the Ducks lacked in speed, they made up with physicality.
Although this conference final matches two Sun Belt clubs 2,000 miles apart, they have a feisty history. Nashville is 5-0 at Bridgestone Arena this postseason thanks in large part to Pekka Rinne, who's knocked aside 141 of 147 shots for a.959 save percentage. We weren't our best, but we lost in overtime.
It was chippy from the first period. We haven't played a team like that in a while.
With a minute left in the first, Vatanen fired a rocket past Rinne for a power-play goal to slice the Ducks' deficit to 2-1.
John Gibson's performance between the pipes had a lot to do with that, and might be the biggest positive to come from this contest for the Ducks.
Still, it would have been valuable to force the Predators to play from behind in a series for the first time in these playoffs. They won two out of three in the 2011 first round, including a huge Game 5 victory when Jerred Smithson scored with 1:57 gone into overtime. Anaheim did not dress D Kevin Bieksa, D Korbinian Holzer, RW Patrick Eaves and C Logan Shaw. They've had 23 skaters on the ice so far this post-season, and 15 of them have scored goals. The sellout crowd filled in throughout the night. They've now gone back-to-back games without giving up a power-play goal for the first time in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ritchie, the power forward making his first career playoff run, scored the winning goal in Game 7 against Edmonton.
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