Ducks dodge an­other late-game flap

Perry’s over­time goal against Preda­tors sends se­ries back to Ana­heim tied 2-2

The Province - - SPORTS | HOCKEY - Michael Traikos mtraikos@post­media.com

Prior to Game 4, Randy Car­lyle stopped to get some gas.

The Ana­heim Ducks, who had blown a third-pe­riod lead in a 2-1 loss on Tues­day, had looked tired as they strug­gled to match their op­po­nents’ pace of play. But rather than bag-skate the team or drill the play­ers to death in what they did wrong, he chose to give them the day off. A cou­ple of days, re­ally.

The Ducks did not skate on Wed­nes­day — in­stead they spent the day play­ing darts and shoot­ing pool — and held an op­tional skate be­fore Game 4, where the em­pha­sis was on “op­tional.” The idea was to put more fuel in the tank.

Car­lyle, who said he asked his play­ers for an ex­tra 10 per cent, didn’t want any wasted en­ergy. Bet­ter to save it for when it mat­tered the most.

“I don’t think we’ve had the emo­tional level we’ve had pre­vi­ously in the game the other night,” Car­lyle had said. “And there were too many check­points from my per­spec­tive that I felt the No. 1 thing that we needed to pre­pare our­selves for tonight was rest.”

The Ducks needed that ex­tra rest on Thurs­day in what was a wild game of mo­men­tum swings. Ana­heim gave up a two-goal lead in the third pe­riod, but still had enough in the tank to de­feat Nashville 3-2 in over­time.

Nate Thomp­son was ini­tially cred­ited with the win­ner at 10:25 in over­time, al­though it was changed to Corey Perry af­ter he sent a pass on net from the corner that redi­rected off Nashville de­fence­man P.K. Sub­ban.

Ei­ther way, it was cri­sis averted for the Ducks, who go home with the best-of-seven Western Con­fer­ence se­ries tied 2-2 rather than down 3-1. Game 5 is in Ana­heim on Satur­day. “I’ll take it,” said Perry, who added the day off played a part in the win. “It was some­thing that we needed and we re­sponded fairly well.”

It was the first home loss of the play­offs for the Preda­tors, who in case you were won­der­ing had prac­tised on Wed­nes­day and skated prior to Game 4. And though they mounted a heck of a come­back in the third pe­riod and nearly pulled off the im­pos­si­ble, the first 20 min­utes were prob­a­bly their worst of the play­offs.

Then again, Nashville had been long over­due for a stinker.

The Preda­tors had swept the Black­hawks in the first round and over­pow­ered the St. Louis Blues in the sec­ond round. Head­ing into Game 4, they not only had never lost at home in this year’s play­offs, but also had outscored their op­po­nents 17-7 at Bridge­stone Arena. And then it started to go away. The speed that had been ev­i­dent in a stun­ning come­back win in Game 3 was nowhere to be found in the early go­ing. The Preda­tors looked tired, flat and out of sync, espe­cially in the first pe­riod when the Ducks set a fran­chise record for fewest shots al­lowed in a pe­riod.

For the first cou­ple of pe­ri­ods, this wasn’t the up-and-down track meet type of game that Nashville prefers. In­stead, Ana­heim ramped up the phys­i­cal­ity and played keep-away. The Ducks, who had 20 to­tal shots in Game 3, out­shot the Preda­tors 14-2 in the first pe­riod on Thurs­day night.

One of those shots was an ab­so­lute can­non.

Catch­ing the Preda­tors on a bad line change, Ducks for­ward Rickard Rakell stepped over the blue­line and un­corked a slap­shot that blew past Pekka Rinne. It was a wellplaced shot. But still, from that far out and with no one in front, it was one that Rinne would have liked back.

Then again, he prob­a­bly would have liked if his team­mates had mus­tered more than just two shots on the Ducks’ net in the first pe­riod.

“I thought we had some en­ergy and played on our toes,” said Car­lyle.

The Preda­tors came out with a lit­tle more en­ergy in the sec­ond pe­riod, out­shoot­ing the Ducks 18-12. But mid­way through, it was Nick Ritchie who gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead on a per­fectly placed wrist shot from just above the face­off cir­cle.

Nashville, mean­while, fi­nally got it go­ing in the third pe­riod. With 6:27 re­main­ing, the Preda­tors fi­nally put one past Ducks goalie John Gib­son when Sub­ban blasted a shot from the point that banked in off the post.

The Preda­tors weren’t done. They were just get­ting started.

Shortly af­ter Sub­ban’s goal, the Ducks took two more penal­ties — one for high-stick­ing and an­other for slash­ing — giv­ing the Preda­tors a 5-on-3 man ad­van­tage. Noth­ing came of it. But with the goalie pulled and 34.5 sec­onds re­main­ing in the pe­riod, Vik­tor Arvids­son set up Filip Fors­berg, who had scored the ty­ing goal in Game 3, in front for an­other game-ty­ing goal.

This time, how­ever, the Preda­tors couldn’t pull off an­other stun­ner.

“I’m go­ing to tell you you’re go­ing to get frus­trated,” Car­lyle said of go­ing into over­time af­ter giv­ing up the lead. “But you have to re­set your­self.”

The Ducks did just that. And this se­ries, which has been re­set, is now down to best two out of three.

— THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

John Gib­son and Nick Ritchie cel­e­brate the Ana­heim Ducks’ 3-2 over­time vic­tory over the Preda­tors on Thurs­day at Bridge­stone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

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