This game was exciting. And that was a shame.
Predators: 25 | Ducks: 5. That was the shot counter with the 3 minutes left in the second period. Anaheim's defense continually lost the puck in their own zone to Nashville's aggressive forecheck. The Ducks' forwards were equally ineffective navigating a defensive zone littered with Shea Webers and Ryan Suters.
The Predators were up 2-0 on a power play goal from Martin Erat and an even-strength tally from Jordin Tootoo. They had multiple unconverted chances on the man-advantage and at even-strength.
Then, after getting dominated the entire game, the Ducks' Teemu Selanne scored with 1:50 left in the second period on the power play. The man-advantage came from a pretty weak elbowing call on Shane O'Brien. Selanne scored again 30 seconds later on a rebound off the end-boards.
And in contrast to the first two periods, the third was a nerve-racking "back-and-forth." Legwand tallied after two incredible shifts from his unit. Matt Beleskey answered, tipping a Saku Koivu shot from his butt off Cody Franson's skate and into the net. Thankfully, Nashville got the final push on the see-saw, as Mike Fisher converted on a beautiful series of passes, initiated by Ryan Suter.
The Predators iced the game after Koivu foolishly went to the box for hooking with a little over 2 minutes to go.
The crowd at the Bridgestone Arena was exemplary--loud and clear from my TV. If Nashville--both the fans and the team--show up like that agan in Game 4, it won't be nearly as close.
Some notes on the game:
- Trotz declined the last change early in the first period on an offensive zone draw, letting Smithson play against the Getzlaf line. Part of the decision had to be Smithson's faceoff prowess, but perhaps there was a little display of game theory from the coach, putting the seed of doubt in Carlyle's mind, as to what match-ups he wanted?
- The Predators again committed the first penalty, but survived. With their best penalty killer in the box, Nashville allowed 0 shots man down.
- For a goon, Parros is not bad. For a goon.
- Shane O'Brien had a first period rife with big hits and bad decisions. He got the first big check on Jason Blake. But the hit was preceded by a series of awful passes between he and Cody Franson that made it impossible to move the puck up ice. In the final minute of the period, he made a horrible decision to pinch in the offensive zone, almost giving the Ducks a big breakaway. His two penalties in this game were forgivable, but playing smart doesn't just mean staying out of the box.
- "We want to make them generate as many mistakes as possible." --a succinct and Orwellian summary of Predators' hockey from Cody Franson.
- Dan Hamhuis supposedly complimented the Bridgestone Arena's crowd noise during the playoffs. Better than November, huh, Dan?
- Joel Ward breakin' sticks again. I think he uses an intentionally flimsy stick to draw slashing calls. It worked today.
- Geoffrion and Sullivan had a great 2-on-1 chance mid-way through the second. But Geoffrion double-clutched the shot, allowing Emery the Hutt to slide over. Erat and Legwand also had a 2-1 with 4:00 left, but Erat couldn't handle the pass.
- Fisher and Getzlaf had a rematch of their bout in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, in which Fisher embarrassed the thug. Getzlaf wanted to go all night. If the Preds had lost, all we would have heard about is how Getzlaf's fight turned the tide of the game. Thank heavens they won.
- Despite allowing the three goals on just 16 shots, Rinne stoned Fowler on breakaway after a bad Blum clear. It was Rinne's one real test during the game.
- As Crispy harped on during the broadcast, the Predators gave the Ducks way too much time and space in the third period. The Ducks were driving into the zone and pulling up at the blue line, letting their team get set-up. The Predators must pressure the puck at all times.
- As Crispy also harped on during the broadcast, the Predators tried too many fancy drop passes in the third. That's an easy way to give the Ducks breakaway chances, especially against the Selanne-line. On that final game-clinching power play, someone (Hornqvist maybe?) made a really egregious across ice pass and you could hear Crisp groan under his breath.
- Corey Perry popped Erat pretty good in the (lack of) teeth. Dork.
2 down, 14 to go...