For additional insight into the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Davis Payne to break down the action. Payne will be checking in throughout the series.
Payne, 46, was coach of the St. Louis Blues from 2010-2011. The Blues were 67-55-15 under Payne.
He joined the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant on the staff of Darryl Sutter in the summer of 2012 and was with the Kings until this past April. He was on their coaching staff during their Stanley Cup championship run in 2014.
ANAHEIM -- Former St. Louis Blues coach Davis Payne thought the Anaheim Ducks did a much better job "playing to their DNA" in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 after the Ducks defeated the Predators 5-3 at Honda Center. The series shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).
"Everybody got their feet moving," Payne said. "It wasn't just one guy at the puck or on the puck working, it was guys away from the puck. They're a good forechecking team and they need continue to play toward that DNA."
Payne, who spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, has had a closer vantage point than most in terms of evaluating the progress of Ducks rookie forward Ondrej Kase, who scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal on Sunday.
Kase played 53 regular-season games for the Ducks and had 15 points (five goals, 10 assists). His third game in the NHL was last November against the Kings, and he played three more times against them.
"We saw that playing against him, the moment doesn't bother him," Payne said. "He's not concerned about the where or with who. He's just concerned about playing it hard, playing it right and playing it with speed.
"He plays his game and he doesn't change just because he's playing with (Ryan) Getzlaf. That's what players have to do when you're coming into the League. You're in the League because of what you do. If you think you're going to come into the League and change what you do, you're going to have a tough time."
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Kase nets a rebound to tie the game
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle continued with his astute in-game adjustments, moving Kase up to the first line with Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie in the second period. Kase and Ritchie scored in the second.
Payne appreciated Kase's consistency.
"He's maintained his style of play regardless of the line he's on," Payne said. "If he's playing with (Nate) Thompson or with Getzlaf, he's playing the same game."
Not only did Carlyle juggle his lines effectively, his sense of timing was also sharp.
"I thought Randy did a great job managing the energy on his bench," Payne said. "He recognized guys that were going, the right times to get them out there and pushed the game back to the way Anaheim needs it to be played."
Then there was the game within a game: the battle between Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Predators center Ryan Johansen, who has been a handful for Anaheim in the first two games. But Johansen lashed out at Kesler after Game 2 in his postgame interview.
"It's a [heck] of a matchup," Payne said. "You've got two guys that are trying to win a series.
"You look at the Getzlaf-(Mike) Fisher matchup, the same thing is going on there. It just doesn't have a lot of the gamesmanship, if you will. Johansen is probably bringing more attention than he wants … he needs to handle it like he did by playing physical. If he wants to get into the war of words, I think he's feeding Kesler's energy. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out once they get to Nashville. The home energy is different. That emotional matchup is an important one. Johansen has found a way to produce.
"As much as some people want to play games, it is about playing the game. It's two good centermen trying to push each other off their game."