The San Jose Sharks overcame some potential bad luck, some tough luck and a third-period deficit as they took Game 1 of their Western Conference series against the Nashville Predators on Friday.
The Sharks exploded in the third period by scoring five times – including two empty-netters – turning Nashville’s one-goal advantage into a 5-2 win.
Former Predator Joel Ward was the catalyst. He set up Tomas Hertl for a power-play goal and then scored the go-ahead marker to give the Sharks their first lead of the night. His goal occurred on a partial break as he outwaited Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne and tucked the puck around him at 11:49.
SERIES STARTS: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in San Jose.
THE SHARKS WIN IF…
The Sharks weren’t the popular pick in their first round series against the Kings, but Los Angeles was dismantled in five games by San Jose. The Sharks were considered the third-most likely of the three Pacific Division entries into the post-season to win the Stanley Cup, and now they’re the last team from the division standing. They’ve put the rest of the Western Conference on notice as they head to Round Two for a date with the Nashville Predators.
The seventh game of an NHL playoff series is supposed to be as exciting as it gets. Given what’s happened the past four seasons, the Anaheim Ducks and their fans could be forgiven if they never want to see a Game 7 again.
The Nashville Predators added to the Ducks’ recent Game 7 woes on Wednesday with a 2-1 win in Anaheim, knocking off the Pacific Division champions. It’s the fourth consecutive year the Ducks’ season has ended in a seventh game, and all of the games have been at home. Colin Wilson and Paul Gaustad scored first-period goals and Pekka Rinne made 36 saves, including 14 in the third period as the Ducks tried to rally.
Through six games of the first-round series against the Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks sniper Corey Perry hasn’t found the back of the net once.
Perry, 30, paced the Ducks with 34 goals in the regular season, and the former Rocket Richard winner hasn’t made a habit of being held off of the score sheet and out of the goal column throughout his career. Perry’s six-game goalless drought hasn’t come due to a lack of trying, though. His 14 shots on goal are the second-most among all Ducks forwards, and Perry has gotten pucks on goal from all over the ice. Monday night, that meant a point-blank opportunity to break his personal goose-egg for the series.
The only thing standing between Perry and his first goal of the series, though, was Predators netminder Pekka Rinne. And, just as he has done all series, Rinne turned aside Perry, continuing to frustrate the sniper in a series that has been much closer than anyone could have expected: Read more
The Predators haven’t seen the second round of the post-season since the 2011-12 season, and with their backs against the wall, Nashville did what few imagined they could do against an incredibly tough Anaheim Ducks team: they’ve forced the series to a one-game, winner-takes-all Game 7.
The Predators’ forced the deciding seventh game because, as they’ve done for much of the series, they shut down the Ducks’ top stars, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf and relied on their ability to counterpunch in order to take a hang on for a 3-1 victory. The Predators’ have frustrated Perry and Getzlaf all series, giving the duo almost no room to operate. Even when Bruce Boudreau paired Getzlaf with Perry, the two weren’t able to generate any offense and Predators netminder Pekka Rinne slammed the door on any and all chances the pair was able to get.
In the contests the Predators have won this series, Rinne was no doubt the difference between wins and losses. Nashville has had to rely on their veteran goaltender, too, because over the past three games they’ve only generated six goals. Luckily, one of those goals was James Neal’s game-winner, which came in the final minutes of the second. Read more
The first four games between Anaheim and Nashville saw the teams trade wins on home ice, but not in the way one would expect. The Predators took the first two games in Anaheim before laying two eggs in Nashville and watching as the Ducks knotted up the series at two wins apiece.
It felt like an inevitability that the series would shift depending on whichever team struck first on home ice, and Saturday night the Ducks did just that with a 5-2 victory. However, were it not for the undisciplined play of the Predators, the outcome could have been much different.
That’s unfortunate, too, because one would think Nashville would have been wary of giving man advantage opportunities to an Anaheim team that boasted the league’s best power play, but the Predators gifted the Ducks six full man advantages on the night. Worst of all, they were preventable penalties, especially those taken by James Neal and a backbreaking slashing minor taken by Mike Ribeiro in final minutes with Nashville trailing by one.
Neal, who is one of the veteran leaders of the Predators, took a needless interference penalty midway through the second period when Nashville had offensive-zone possession, and then again headed to the box when he elbowed Corey Perry following the end of the second frame. Those two infractions help Anaheim kill precious time, but Ribeiro’s minor was the most costly. With him sitting in the box, the Ducks struck for the first time on the night when Cam Fowler’s blast eluded Pekka Rinne 11 seconds into the power play. Read more
For the second consecutive game, the Predators were beaten handily on home ice. In Game 4, with a chance to take a 3-1 series lead, Nashville suffered a 4-1 loss, and the home team’s frustrations were never clearer than late in the second period when center Mike Ribeiro dropped Ducks winger Corey Perry with a spear to the midsection.
The shot by Ribeiro came with 11 seconds left in the second period as Perry chipped the puck towards the Nashville zone. As he tried to evade Ribeiro, Perry was sticked in the midsection, fell to the ice and the Predators pivot was whistled for slashing. Looking closer at the play, though, it seems Ribeiro may have gotten away with a clear spear on Perry: Read more
The Anaheim Ducks’ start to the playoffs seems to be mirroring their start to the regular season.
The Ducks, of course, opened the season by losing nine-of-their-first-10 games and had a hard time scoring. THN’s official pre-season Stanley Cup pick were written off by many before turning it around in the second half and winning the Pacific Division.
The Ducks got off to a rough start in the playoffs, too. They lost their first two games – at home – to the surprising Nashville Predators and seemed to be in big trouble. Once again, they’re rebounding in a big way.