The Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks squared off tonight in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Nashville led Anaheim in the series 2-1. Before the game, pop icon Kelly Clarkson sang the National Anthem while Nashville natives Kings of Leon pumped up the crowd. The game-day operations crew in Nashville is doing everything it can to ensure that playing at home really is an advantage. In the end, this game would see its fair share of momentum swings, but the visiting Ducks emerged victorious.
Anaheim Ducks Defeat Nashville Predators in Overtime to Win Game 4
Ducks Strong Start
The Ducks, down in the series, came out firing in the first period. They held the Predators without a shot on goal until six minutes into the opening frame. Pushing the pace, the Ducks defense was very active joining the rush. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was strong, stopping early bids by defensemen Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour.
Eventually, the Ducks cashed in on a goal from Rickard Rakell at 8:30 of the first period. The Ducks caught the Predators on a line change as Fowler found Rakell with a stretch pass. Rakell hammered the puck by Rinne, low on the blocker side.
The first period was all Ducks, executing their game to a tee. They were faster and more physical than the Predators. Their defense, one of the league’s most offensively gifted, drove the play. Their breakouts were clean and every pass was sharp and on target.
By the end of the period, the Ducks had outshot the Predators 14-2. Credit Rinne for keeping the Predators alive. Without him, the score could have easily been 3-0. Rinne’s unwillingness to quit on plays would be paramount to the Predators effort.
Ducks Stay Resilient
After being outplayed in the first period, the Predators came out swinging in the second. Led by Filip Forsberg, the Predators were a team on a mission. They pushed the pace, testing John Gibson early with two shots in the first 50 seconds. They carried that momentum through the first ten minutes of the period.
Gibson and the Ducks defense would bend, but not break. Gibson made a fantastic sprawling save on a strong try by Forsberg. Had Forsberg scored at this point, the outcome could have been much different.
Filip Forsberg nearly ties things up for the Preds. pic.twitter.com/HZoItwGsLj
The Ducks stubborn defense led the way to a goal scored by Nick Ritchie at 10:22 of the period. Although the Predators poured on the pressure, the Ducks looked poised and confident. They played a near perfect road game in the second period, making simple plays and avoiding mistakes and turnovers.
Predators Pressure Causes Cracks in Discipline
Although the Ducks dominated the first period and survived an early push from Nashville in the second, eventually they began to crack under the pressure. The Predators have been dominant in third periods throughout these playoffs. After Game 4, they own a +15 goal differential in third periods. They needed another great performance to climb back into this game.
Whereas in the second period the Ducks looked unaffected by the Predators drive, they certainly looked rattled in the third. Gritty play from Predators led to consecutive sloppy penalties taken by the Ducks Corey Perry, Ondrej Kase, Kevin Bieksa, and Josh Manson. On the Kase penalty, P.K. Subban scored on a slapshot from the point to put the Predators on the board.
The Bieksa and Manson penalties followed, just 29 seconds apart, giving the Predators an extended 5-on-3 opportunity with 4:38 remaining in the game. Although they failed to score on the two-man advantage, Nashville stole all life from the Ducks. They then tied the game at two with 35 seconds remaining in regulation. With the Predators net empty, Forsberg banged the puck past Gibson.
After playing two periods with impressive poise and purpose, the Ducks fell apart in the third. The penalties and lack of discipline snowballed, and the Predators capitalized, keeping hopes for a 7-0 record at home in the postseason alive.
The Predators carried over the momentum from the third period to open overtime, but the Ducks pushed back. The teams traded chances and zone time, and both goalies made key saves. After several swings that saw chances for both sides, the Ducks finally dealt the Predators their first home loss of the playoffs on a goal from Nate Thompson.
Despite the loss, the Predators again showed they play with passion and persistence. They clawed their way back from a two goal deficit in the last eight minutes of the game. While the first period could have easily gotten out of hand, Pekka Rinne kept his team in the mix. Filip Forsberg played perhaps his best individual game of the post season. The Predators will look to mend their inefficiencies and build on the positives heading into Game 5.
The Ducks won the game largely thanks to their strong first period and the solid play of their goaltender Gibson. He bailed out his team during the penalty kill, and came up with multiple timely saves. The Ducks were able to grind and wear down the Predators. After Anaheim dominated the first period, Nashville looked like the better team for long stretches. That’s where experience kicked in for the Ducks. They were more opportunistic. Despite letting go of a two-goal lead, the Ducks veterans made good on their chance in overtime.
The series is now tied 2-2. Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals will take place at 7:15 EST in Anaheim, California.