ANAHEIM - Four days after the Ducks exorcised the demons of Game 7s past, they reversed a lesser-known troubling trend with a 5-3 victory over the Predators in Game 2 at Honda Center.
Four previous times in franchise history after losing Game 1 at home, the Ducks also lost Game 2 - this year against Edmonton, last year vs. Nashville, 2014 vs. LA and 2008 vs. Dallas. This time the Ducks turned the tables by bouncing back from an early two-goal deficit on their way to knotting up the Western Conference Final at a game apiece.
"We know how important these games are," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Everyone gets more important as we go forward. Tonight's response after getting down 2-0 is a character builder for our group. We believe we can go into any building and play with the teams we're up against and give ourselves a chance for success."
The Ducks took their first lead with just under three minutes left in the second period on a Nick Ritchie shot from the left wing that appeared to glance off goalie Pekka Rinne's mask before flying over his right shoulder. It was the first time Rinne had given up more than three goals at all in this postseason.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Ritchie rifles shot in off Rinne's mask
Nashville sent Rinne to the bench for an extra attacker in the final two minutes, and after a series of icing calls, the Ducks ultimately made the Preds pay. Antoine Vermette won a faceoff in his own end with just under a minute left and seconds later filled the empty net from the Nashville blue line, igniting the capacity crowd.
Video: NSH@ANA. Gm2: Vermette seals win with empty-net tally
Unlike in Game 1, it was Nashville that took the early lead, 4:18 into the game, when Ryan Johansen snuck behind the Anaheim defense and beat goalie John Gibson on the breakaway.
Nashville made it 2-0 just after a power play expired, as Gibson completely lost sight of the puck and allowed James Neal to walk unimpeded to the net, where he dumped the puck inside the left post.
"Everybody says we go about it the hard way," said Gibson (30 saves). "As long as we get the job done, that's all we're worried about."
A Matt Irwin tripping penalty late in the first gave the Ducks some life, and they took advantage when Sami Vatanen hammered a slap shot from the right wing circle that dove inside the far post. It was the first power-play goal for the Ducks since Game 2 of the Edmonton series, breaking an 0-for-20 cold streak. It was also Vatanen's first goal since March 3.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Vatanen blisters a slapper for PPG
"It's good to get that one," Vatanen said. "Hopefully it opens up the ketchup bottle and we can get a few more."
Whether that goal provided a spark or not, the Ducks and tied it just 49 seconds in the middle fame when a Rickard Rakell pass bounded across the crease and found Jakob Silfverberg, who deposited it into the wide open net. It was Silfverberg's ninth goal of the postseason, tying for the NHL lead.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Silfverberg slides home Rakell's dish
A bad Ducks turnover gave the lead back to the Predators later in the period. Viktor Arvidsson circled around the Anaheim net on the rush and hit the post with a wraparound, but Filip Forsberg was there to tap in the rebound.
Anaheim tied it back up just past the midway point of the period when Ondrej Kase threw a rebound on net that got behind Rinne and slid just inches over the stripe. It was some payoff for a strong night all around for Kase, though it was his first career playoff goal and first since February 22.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Kase nets a rebound to tie the game
"Ritchie said 'Goal!'" Kase said, "and I started celebrating."
Ritchie's game-winner was his second in the last three games, the first coming in Game 7 vs. Edmonton.
"I didn't think we played that bad at the start," Vatanen said. "They got a couple goals, but we have a calm group. We knew what we were doing. We kept pushing and got the win today."
The series shifts to Nashville, where the Ducks and Predators will battle in Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.