NASHVILLE -- Try as they might, a miraculous comeback was not in the cards tonight.
A late penalty proved costly for the Ducks, who lost, 2-1, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at Bridgestone Arena, while also going down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series.
Roman Josi made the Ducks pay dearly for Chris Wagner's high-sticking penalty with under four minutes remaining, scoring the eventual game-winning goal with 2:43 left on the clock. Anaheim's penalty kill, which had gone 3-for-3 leading into Wagner's penalty, couldn't deliver when it needed to the most.
"I didn't really see it," said goaltender John Gibson, who finished with 38 saves. "I think it just bounced to [Josi]. That's the way it goes. We seem to be dealing with unlikely breaks or bounces all playoffs. It's something we're used to. I think we'll bounce back the right way."
It was an uncharacteristically sloppy night all around for the Ducks, and it started in their own zone. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf says it's an area they know needs to be better when Game 4 rolls around on Thursday night. "I didn't think we executed with the puck properly tonight, which caused a lot more headaches than needed," he said. "They were good around our net. They played hard at our net, bumping into our goalie all night. We didn't do a good enough job getting inside."
Corey Perry scored the lone goal for the Ducks on his 32nd birthday, which placed him in a tie with Teemu Selanne (35) for second place on the franchise's all-time postseason goals list.
Filip Forsberg tied the game for the Preds just 3:54 into the third period, while Pekka Rinne stopped 19 saves in the win.
Both clubs skated into the first intermission with a scoreless tie, due in large part to some stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice. Gibson was strong from puck drop, critical for a Ducks team that knew it had to weather the storm early. Perhaps his biggest saves of the period came in consecutive fashion, when he denied Predators captain Mike Fisher with bang-bang stops in a net-mouth scramble in the crease. Rinne rose to the challenge at the other end, thwarting Rickard Rakell's backhanded deflection with a blocker save on a 2-on-1 chance.
Anaheim's penalty killers were tested at the 11:24 mark of the period when Nate Thompson was whistled for an elbowing penalty on one-time Ducks forward Harry Zolnierczyk. The club's best penalty killer was Gibson, who came up big on several occasions, though the four-man unit held the Predators to the perimeter for the majority of the two-minute minor.
The Ducks, held without a shot through the first 11 minutes of the second period, came within inches of breaking the scoreless tie when Brandon Montour shuffled a backhander on net that snuck underneath Rinne. Though the puck inched across the stripe, the net came off its moorings a split-second prior. After a brief review, the call on the ice stood, thus no goal.
A fight between Jared Boll and Cody McLeod broke out with 5:53 remaining in the second period when Boll laid out Zolnierczyk in open ice. Zolnierczyk remained on the ice for several seconds before he made his way to the locker room. McLeod, in addition to the fighting major, was tagged with a two-minute instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.
The Ducks capitalized on their ensuing power play when Perry sent a shot on Rinne from beneath the goal line that somehow caromed off the inside of Rinne's right leg. It was remarkably his first shot on goal of the entire series, and his first goal since his thrilling double-overtime winner in Game 5 of the Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers on May 5.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm3: Perry scores PPG on sharp-angle shot
Nashville evened the score at the 3:54 mark of the third period when Forsberg went top shelf on a rebound chance at the far dot, giving him his team-leading sixth goal of the postseason. The goal brought the capacity crowd to life, as they roared in unison for his game-tying marker.
"I don't think we won enough battles in their end to keep pucks alive and keep our zone time going," said Andrew Cogliano. "At the end of the day, we didn't get enough zone time to create too much. It had to do with not winning enough plays in the offensive zone and not breaking out clean enough."
The Predators took the lead for good with 2:43 remaining in regulation when Josi converted on a loose puck that Gibson couldn't track. The goal came on the power play with Wagner in the box for high sticking.
"It's been going back and forth," Gibson said, on the series. "It's only 2-1. We're in a better position than we were last time, but it'd be nice if we can focus on the next game and come away with a split."
This series will continue with Game 4 on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.