NASHVILLE -- Resilient. Confident. Poised. Unbreakable. The list goes on when it comes to describing this Ducks team, but one thing is certain. They won't ever give up.
After blowing a two-goal lead, including giving up the game-tying goal with 34.5 seconds remaining in regulation, the Ducks weathered storm after storm in overtime before Corey Perry* stunned the raucous crowd with perhaps the biggest goal of Anaheim's postseason.
*The goal was originally credited to Nate Thompson, but later changed
In a game that will go down as one of the most emotionally taxing for fans on both sides, the Ducks took Game 4 by a 3-2 final to even this best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Perry's goal, a bad-angle shot from near the goal line that deflected off P.K. Subban's stick, came at the 10:25 mark of OT when the Predators were pushing their hardest.
"We've had to do it all playoffs," said Thompson. "I think there have been certain situations in the playoffs where we've had to deal with that. We have a good core of leadership in here, a good bunch in the group, and even our younger guys have been through it too. We know how to handle ourselves and I thought we did a good job of it, and came out and we took care of business."
Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie also scored for the Ducks, who snapped Nashville's 10-game home winning streak in the playoffs. Ironically, the last team to defeat the Predators on home ice was Anaheim, in Game 4 of the 2016 Western Conference First Round. John Gibson was stellar, stopping 32 shots in the win tonight.
The Ducks have now won 13 straight games, including four in the playoffs, when Ritchie has scored, dating to December 7.
"We played good, we played a good game for the most part, and then we got into some penalty trouble at the end," said Kevin Bieksa, who made his series debut in the victory. "You can say what you want about a couple of the calls, but we got the job done on the penalty kill. They managed to get a couple of ones at the end there, but we stuck with it. Again, you can't say enough about the mindset of the team when we come in between overtime in the third, and it's just calm, it's back to business, and it's 'let's just get out and play our game.' There is no panic and you see what happens."
Subban and Filip Forsberg tallied goals for the Predators, while Pekka Rinne made 33 saves.
A strong start paid off at the 11:30 mark of the first period when the Ducks capitalized on a bad line change by the Predators. As the Preds scurried to the bench, Rakell waited at the blueline, uncontested, and walked in on Rinne. From there, he unloaded a blistering slap shot that beat Rinne shortside to give the Ducks a well-deserved lead in a period they thoroughly controlled. It was his seventh goal of the playoffs and the first of this series, ending a four-game goal-less drought that dated to Game 6 against Edmonton.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Rakell cranks a slapper past Rinne
After killing off a cross-checking penalty to Ryan Getzlaf in the fleeting minutes of the period, the Ducks went into the locker room having only allowed two shots on goal to the Predators, a franchise record for fewest shots against in a playoff period. The previous record was three, last achieved in the first period of Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Final vs. Chicago.
The Ducks caught a break midway through the middle frame when Ryan Johansen's stick broke receiving a pass at center ice. Forced to drop his stick, Johansen was unable to keep possession of the puck, which eventually allowed the Ducks to attack the other way. Thompson's pass found its way to Ritchie, who entered the zone with speed on his off wing. A subtle hesitation move allowed just enough separation from himself and Predators defenseman Roman Josi, and Ritchie sent a wrist shot that beat Rinne over his left shoulder to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Ritchie sweeps a wrister top shelf
Anaheim nearly made it a three-goal game had Ryan Kesler's shortside bid on a goal-mouth scramble not caught the iron of the near-side post. The scoring chance capped off an impressive shift from Anaheim's famed shutdown line.
Gibson had to be good during the second period, denying all 18 shots faced - 16 more than he had to save in the opening 20 minutes. Rinne, meanwhile, was strong on 11 of 12 shots, save for Ritchie's goal and a fortunate bounce off the post.
The clubs entered their respective dressing rooms with 45 combined hits through 40 minutes (23 for Anaheim, 22 for Nashville).
Gibson came up with a huge save 5:30 into the third period when he sprawled to make a point shot on Subban. Sami Vatanen followed up with a potential goal saving blocked shot moments later to keep it a 2-0 score.
Rinne responded with 7:06 remaining in regulation when he denied Jakob Silfverberg with a big-time right-pad stop with his leg fully extended to deny his backhander. The scoring chance came with the man advantage, a two-minute elbowing penalty assessed to Subban.
Gibson's shutout bid ended with 6:27 remaining in regulation when Subban's slap shot from the right point snuck past Gibson's glove to cut Nashville's deficit in half. The goal came on the power play with Ondrej Kase sitting in the box for tripping.
Anaheim's penalty-killing unit came up with its biggest kill of the night - a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:31 - and with under four minutes left in the game. Getzlaf capped it off with a blocked shot off the right skate that allowed the Ducks to clear the zone.
Unfortunately for Anaheim, the lead was erased when Forsberg jammed home a loose puck at the left corner to tie the game with 34.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
But leave it to the Ducks, who have been pushed to the limits so many times in these playoffs, to deliver when it mattered most. As a stunned Predators crowd made its way to the exits, the Ducks swarmed the ice, celebrating yet another incredible victory.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Perry nets OT winner off deflection
So how did the Ducks remain calm despite the chaotic atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena when the Predators tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation? They knew there simply couldn't be any other option for success.
"You have to, you really don't have a choice," said Thompson. "You can't change the past. They came back and tied it up, and we couldn't come in here and sulk about it. Like [Bieksa] said, we had to forget about it, reset, go out and try to win the game."
This series is now a best of three, and it continues on Saturday at Honda Center.
NOTE: With his third OT goal of this postseason, Perry matched the NHL record for most overtime goals in a playoff year (Mel Hill in 1939 and Maurice Richard in 1951).