Ducks even se­ries with Preda­tors

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - GREG BEACHAM

ANA­HEIM, CALIF. — Nick Ritchie scored the tiebreak­ing goal late in the sec­ond pe­riod, and the Ana­heim Ducks roared back from an early two-goal deficit to even the West­ern Con­fer­ence best-of-seven fi­nal with a 5-3 vic­tory over the Nashville Preda­tors in Game 2 on Sun­day night.

Jakob Sil­fver­berg, Sami Vata­nen and On­drej Kase also scored while the Ducks cracked im­pos­ing goalie Pekka Rinne with a thrilling surge of four goals in less than 19 min­utes of play.

The Preda­tors hadn’t al­lowed four goals in any game dur­ing their ex­cel­lent Stan­ley Cup play­off run be­fore Ana­heim fi­nally got rolling for its sell­out crowd.

John Gib­son stopped 30 shots, and An­toine Ver­mette had an emp­tynet goal for the Ducks.

Ryan Jo­hansen, James Neal and Filip Fors­berg scored for the Preda­tors.

Game 3 is Tues­day night in Nashville.

Rinne made 22 saves for the Preda­tors, who faced rel­a­tively lit­tle ad­ver­sity while steam­rolling Chicago and St. Louis in the first two rounds on the way to the first con­fer­ence fi­nals in fran­chise his­tory.

Two days af­ter Nashville’s 3-2 over­time vic­tory at Honda Cen­ter in the se­ries opener, Jo­hansen and Neal scored in the open­ing 8:32 of Game 2.

The Ducks fi­nally awak­ened at the prospect of their sec­ond straight 0-2 se­ries deficit and replied with high-oc­tane hockey — and a few for­tu­nate bounces — that was too much even for Rinne, who hadn’t given up four goals in a game since March 13.

Ritchie, the power for­ward mak­ing his first ca­reer play­off run, scored the win­ning goal in Game 7 against Ed­mon­ton. Four days later, he got his next ma­jor goal on an ex­cep­tional high shot that ap­peared to glance off Rinne’s mask on the way in.

Ana­heim hung on through a fre­netic third pe­riod, sur­viv­ing a few mad scram­bles be­fore cap­tain Ryan Get­zlaf got his third as­sist of the night on Ver­mette’s empty-net­ter. The Ducks also got sev­eral good saves from Gib­son, who has raised his level of play from the first two rounds.

Al­though Honda Cen­ter was much fuller and louder than it was for the traf­fic-af­fected se­ries opener, the Ducks’ knack for slow starts at home re­mained con­stant. Af­ter Jo­hansen scored on a break­away just 4:18 in, Neal dou­bled the lead on a power play with one of the eas­i­est goals in re­cent his­tory, es­cort­ing the puck unim­peded into the net when Gib­son com­pletely lost sight of the play.

The now fa­mil­iar omi­nous hush fell over the Honda Cen­ter, how­ever the Ducks got go­ing in an un­likely sce­nario.

Ana­heim’s power play was score­less in 21 straight at­tempts dat­ing to Game 2 of the sec­ond round against Ed­mon­ton, but Vata­nen beat Rinne cleanly with a slap shot for his first goal of the post-sea­son.

CHRIS CARL­SON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ducks goalie John Gib­son cel­e­brates with Josh Man­son af­ter Game 2 of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal Sun­day in Ana­heim. Ducks beat Nashville, 5-3.

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