Monday, April 25, 2016

Predators Show Life, Down the Ducks 3-1 to Force Game 7

After looking inept and off their game, the Nashville Predators resurrected Predator hockey and took the game to the Anaheim Ducks at Bridgestone Arena, winning 3-1 and forcing a game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.

The first period was a tight checking, scoreless affair.

That changed in the second period when Mattias Ekholm carried the puck behind the net and back out to the face off circle before launching a seeing eye shot through traffic that Frederick Andersen never saw to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Predators extended their lead to 2-0 when Ryan Johansen broke in on a 2 on 1 with James Neal. Johansen drew the defender toward him and made Andersen respect his shot before slipping the puck to Neal, who buried it in a wide open net.

The lone Ducks goal came off a horrid call against Ekholm. After being held for about 6 seconds by Hampus Lindholm, Matty Ek was called for a touch foul. On the ensuing power play, Rinne stopped a shot from the face off circle by Corey Perry, but the puck leaked through his pads and Ryan Kessler was able to tap it in to cut the Predators lead to 2-1.

The third period saw a furious push by the Ducks and occasional counters by the Predators. The play of the game came when Rinne stopped Perry, who was alone in the slot and fired from point blank range. Rinne was positionally sound and kicked the puck out with his pads.

Shea Weber sealed the win with a long range empty net goal.

Some observations:

  • For the first time in team history, the Predators will play a game 7.
  • Also for the first time in team history, the Predators won a game 6 when facing elimination.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 26:34. Roman Josi led the team with 5 blocked shots.
  • Mike Ribeiro has been awful in this series, but I have to give him credit. His play tonight was disciplined and generally solid. He is going to have to play that way in game 7. However, he continues to brutal in the face off dot, going 0-6 tonight.
  • Craig Smith was back in the line up and took his regular spot on the second line wing. You cannot overestimate the value of Smith to this team. His speed and strength on the puck opens up the ice for his line mates. The Predators really missed him over the last 3 games.
  • The Predators did a much better job of attacking the net and going to the hard areas. This is how you are going to score in the playoffs and tonight, they made a commitment to do hard hockey. They will have to do it again on Wednesday night.
  • A sign seen in the Predators locker room after the game: "Noon flight tomorrow. Pack for 6 days." I like the confidence, because if the Predators win on Wednesday, they will open the second round in San Jose.
  • The Predators blocked 21 shots. The Ducks had 11 blocks.
  • The Predators lost Cody Bass in the first period when he went for a big hit, missed, and crashed hard into the end boards.
  • After all the penalties in this series, especially those taken by the Ducks, this game saw only 2 power plays, one by each team. As mentioned earlier, the call against Matty Ek was one of the worst I have seen in any post season game.
This was the Predators team that showed it can compete with the best in the NHL. Attacking hockey, solid goaltending, and sound defense secured this win.

It's a great feeling.

Now they have to build on this and bring in game 7 on Wednesday.

My three stars:

1. James Neal

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Mattias Ekholm

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