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Conference Final

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle pushes right buttons vs. Predators in Game 2

Decision to place forward Ondrej Kase on top line pays off, helps even series

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- It's almost like a suspense thriller. How are the Anaheim Ducks going to manage to wiggle out of another predicament in what has been a wildly entertaining run in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs?


[RELATED: Complete Ducks vs. Predators series coverage | Campbell: Johansen, Kesler battle in Game 2]


Ducks coach Randy Carlyle surveyed the situation for Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators at Honda Center, and by the second period, rookie forward Ondrej Kase was moved to the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie.

Before the period was over, Kase scored his first playoff goal to tie the game, 3-3. His goal came in the midst of a three-goal outburst in the second period by the Ducks in a 5-3 win.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is at Nashville on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Carlyle praises team after Game 2 win

Carlyle likes to roll out different sports analogies, often talking about holding serve. A loss in Game 2 would have meant the Ducks would be attempting to come back from 2-0 in the series. They managed to do that against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round, but that was the first time the Ducks have ever won a playoff round after losing the first two games.

"It was huge," Carlyle said. "I don't care. In sports, it's always, it's critical. We don't want to put the pressure that you people would put on it, the exclamation mark you would put on it, that it's end-all.

"We know how important these games are, and everyone gets more important as we go forward. Tonight's response after getting down 2-0 is a character builder for our group."

Ducks goaltender John Gibson got through a rocky first period, allowing two goals in the first 8:32. The Ducks were trailing early yet again.

"Everybody says we go about it the hard way, but as long as we get the job done, I think that's all we're really worried about and focused on," Gibson said. "Whether it's the hard way or whatever other way, as long as we get the results."

The comeback started when the Ducks finally scored their first power-play goal in seven games, ending a 0-for-21 drought. Defenseman Sami Vatanen scored his first goal of the playoffs, ripping a shot past his Finnish countryman, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, at 19:00 of the first period to make it 2-1.

Video: Ducks rally past Preds to win Game 2 and even series

"I saw he was standing a little bit off the net there," Vatanen said. "I knew I got a shot there on the blocker side. I closed my eyes and ripped it and it went in.

"[Rinne's] a good guy too. It's fun to watch him and it's even more fun to score goals against him."

Ritchie scored the game-winner at 17:07 of the second period off a nice tip pass from Getzlaf, who had three assists.

The newly-formed line was another example of Carlyle's bench management, making the right moves at the right time in the playoffs.

His sense of timing this postseason has been uncanny.

"We were losing 2-0 and [Carlyle] wants some changing," Kase said.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Kase nets a rebound to tie the game

Kase was born and raised in the Czech Republic, and the 21-year-old was a seventh-round pick by the Ducks at the 2014 NHL Draft.

"It doesn't matter if it's third round or seventh round," Kase said.

His English is improving, but he has a quick way of getting his point across and his goal celebrations are exuberant.

He watched the 2014 draft via the internet.

And his Anaheim verdict?

"Great city," Kase said.

Kase has been getting better and better with each game. It's easy, for instance, to forget he was playing with San Diego of the American Hockey League in the first round of the playoffs.

Sunday was his fifth NHL playoff game.

"With Kase, I think it's more of an understanding that there's certain things that you can do in the American Hockey League that you can't do in the NHL," Carlyle said. "There's certain things you can do in playoff time or non-playoff time versus playoff time.

"But the one thing that's been consistent with him, he's been a type of energizer bunny, can play with pace, can make plays in small areas, can create space for himself, and he's not afraid to go into those areas. We think that moving him up and down in our lineup gives us some flexibility, because he's a fearless player for his size. And he goes into the areas and can make plays with good players."

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