A three-goal second period helped the Anaheim Ducks to even the Western Conference Final at one game apiece with a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators in Game Two on Sunday at Honda Center. The result marks just the third loss of the postseason for the Preds, and the first time they’ve given up at least four goals in these playoffs.
Nashville jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the Ducks got a power-play goal before the opening frame was out, a moment Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said caused the momentum to shift in Anaheim’s favor.
“It’s a 60-minute game, and it’s a good hockey team over there,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “I’m happy with how we battled back, but obviously disappointed [we lost]. We had enough chances [to win]…but you have to play a solid 60 minutes to win these games.”
For the second consecutive game, Nashville’s start was excellent, and they had a 2-0 lead to show for it. First, Viktor Arvidsson found Ryan Johansen streaking past the Anaheim defense, and the centerman beat John Gibson for a 1-0 lead. Then it was James Neal with his second goal in as many games, this time tucking one home on the power-play at 8:32. But Sami Vatanen got a power-play goal of his own before the frame was out to get the Ducks on the board, and the goals kept coming in the second.
Anaheim evened the score with a goal from Jakob Silfverberg early in the middle stanza before Arvidsson pulled Gibson out of the net on a partial break, which Filip Forsberg followed and poked the puck over the line for a 3-2 lead. It was Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie who tallied before the period was out to give the Ducks a 4-3 advantage after 40 minutes of play.
“After the [fourth] goal, you feel like you could have saved it, but that one for sure, it was bad timing too,” Rinne said. “It’s a tough break, tough play and personally, for sure, I want to have that back.”
Nashville had their opportunities in the third period as they pushed for the equalizer, including a mad scramble in front of Gibson with less than six minutes to play, but that was as close as the Preds came before the Ducks added an empty-netter to seal it.
The goal was to take two games to open the series in Anaheim, but the math says Nashville had to win at least one in California for a chance to advance, and they’ve done that. Now they’ll head home to a building where they’re 5-0 in the playoffs with two chances to collect wins before jetting back to Anaheim.
“We came here to win two games – we got one and it’s a step in the right direction,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “We would have liked a different result tonight, but we go home with a 1-1 series and two games at home, and we’re comfortable with that.”
“Now we’re heading home and have an opportunity [in Nashville],” Rinne said. “And that’s the best part of it.”
With a goal and an assist in Game Two, Ryan Johansen tied the Nashville franchise record for points in a single postseason with 13 (3g-10a). Colin Wilson (2016 postseason) and Joel Ward (2011 postseason) currently share the record with Johansen.
James Neal scored in the first period of Game Two, giving him 13 playoff goals as a member of the Predators. That ties him with Shea Weber and David Legwand for first in the category in franchise history.
The Western Conference Final now shifts to Nashville with Game Three set for Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT at Bridgestone Arena. Game Four will take place on Thursday in Nashville before shifting back to Anaheim for Game Five on Saturday.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report