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20 May 2017, 08:48 | Andy Ferguson
That's when Sami Vatanen got the puck and thought he saw a sliver of room over Rinne's shoulder. "They were confident", Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said afterwards.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, however, the home team sprang brilliantly to life, soon enough this time to put together a 5-3 win and tie the series at a game apiece.
Laviolette admitted however that he had wondered if the Ducks would be able to defend their lead after watching Gibson's display in goal.
The 24-year-old, who came out of nowhere this year to score 31 goals and 61 points - only Connor McDavid had a bigger year-to-year improvement - had just one assist in his previous seven games. The Ducks learned this the hard way, going 0 for 4 on the man advantage in Game 1.
Game 4 is Thursday night in Nashville.
The second Nashville tally was particularly discouraging in that goaltender John Gibson lost sight of the puck so completely that James Neal could have scored using a spatula.
Offensively, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf notched three assists, while Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen each had multi-point nights for Nashville. "They found a way to claw back". After the game, he said he just has to focus on his game. "And you wonder if 1-0 is going to do it for the night".
Anaheims Ryan Kesler was booed nearly every time he touched the puck on Tuesday night, but most of the venom during the third period was saved for referees Brad Meier and Wes McCauley, who had the audacity to disallow two Nashville goals.
Ondrej Kase tied the game at 3 with 9:19 remaining in the second-period. There was one sequence, I think, they got one shot and a little bit of a scramble, and all of a sudden they had four more shots at it. "But we still battled back. It's tough to explain. obviously disappointed personally".
The Ducks see the problem as largely mental, and they intend to address it in the hours before the series resumes. Pekka Rinne has given up 20 goals on 343 shots faced.
Antoine Vermette #50 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates his empty net goal with teammates Ryan Kesler #17 and Josh Manson #42 in the third period of Sunday's Game 2. The lone goal held up for nearly 40 minutes, when Evgeni Malkin scored at 14:25 of the third to tie the game.
The Predators overcame back-to-back canceled-out goals in that rush to succeed, and there are at least some who wonder if they were crashing Gibson's net in a way that wasn't quite innocent.
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A pair of Anaheim blunders allowed Nashville to take a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Roman Josi delivered the go-ahead goal late in the third period.
Consider the forward all caught up.
Country Music recording artist Keith Urban sings the National Anthem before Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference championship series between the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Nash. "That's all I'm trying to do". The Ducks responded with a 5-3 triumph in Game 2 to even the series, dealing the Predators their third loss in 12 postseason games.
Not that it seems to bother Ottawa.
The overtime trend continued in the series opener between the Penguins and Senators.
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Nashville's top two scorers in the playoffs are forwards Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen; their next three top point producers are all defensemen, which indicates just how balanced a team they are from a scoring perspective. Now Ottawa finds itself on equal footing and hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. This was the first time in this playoff season that the Preds looked rattled at times. The problem wasn't Ottawa's neutral zone trap created to slow teams down but a decided lack of aggression once Malkin, captain Sidney Crosby and company crossed the Senators' blue line.
"We didn't play anywhere near where we're capable of playing", Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We knew what was going to happen", Ducks right wing Corey Perry said. Exactly what they needed... Ron Hainsey hit the crossbar early and Patric Hornqvist dinged the left post but that's as close as Pittsburgh would get to slipping one by Anderson. Ritchie released his shot just off the left half wall and even with the left circle. "All night, we had a lot of chances and we didn't give them a lot". J.G. Pageau scored at 14:32 of the first for Ottawa. I don't know what he's doing.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that Gibson is getting better as the pressure mounts. And they were just getting started.
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