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Coach's analysis: Predators shouldn't change much in Game 6 vs. Ducks

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn says Nashville will be successful if it sticks to plan that has worked in playoffs

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators, has enlisted the help of Perry Pearn to break down the action from the Predators' perspective. Pearn will be checking in throughout the series.

Pearn, 65, has worked 22 seasons as an NHL assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He began his NHL career as an assistant in Winnipeg in 1995-96.


Intrigue always increases the longer a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs lasts but Game 5 in the Western Conference Final between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks went to a level all its own for former NHL assistant Perry Pearn.

With injuries causing Predators centers Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher to miss the game, and the Ducks without right wing Rickard Rakell and, after the first period, goalie John Gibson, plenty of wild cards were introduced to the best-of-7 series.

"To me, Game 5 was in many ways the most interesting game of the series because of all those circumstances," Pearn said. "With the two injuries for Nashville at center, you always wonder how that's going to affect the entire team, then you had John Gibson go down in the middle of the game.


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Ducks series coverage]


"Those injuries and the impact they'll have today and in the future of this series is the biggest part of the story. And that leads to the most important conclusion from Game 5, that Nashville somehow found a way to win that game.

"In the early going, it looked like Anaheim had control of the game. I didn't think Nashville was getting as many quality chances as they had in other games, though you'd have to give them the fact that their first period was better than at home in Game 4."

The Predators won 3-1 and can advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 6 in Nashville on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Watson buries long empty-netter

An important point in the game for the Predators was Colin Wilson's power-play goal at 19:19 of the second period, tying the game at 1-1.

"Such a big part of the outcome, that power-play goal," Pearn said. "It was the kind of play I think they needed to get more of earlier in the series on the power play. It was a simple, throw-the-puck-at-the-net play, then get the rebound and score.

"It's never good to lose player of Ryan Johansen's quality and skill but I think some people would share this opinion with me that he's a guy who sometimes would rather make a skill play over a simple play. So missing him in Game 5, they were a little more determined to go with simple plays, and that's, to me, how they scored the power-play goal."

Pearn said that Anaheim goalie Jonathan Bernier did a good job filling in for Gibson in a difficult situation.

"Bernier did not play poorly," Pearn said. "I thought he did just fine. But there were two rebounds that he just couldn't get control of, and they were difficult plays. That's how the tying and winning goals were scored, so I think you'd have to give Nashville some credit there for their determination."

In Game 5, each team was guilty of a bad change that led to a goal against, something to keep an eye on for Game 6, Pearn said.

"They're both 5-on-5 plays and the first one was the Anaheim goal by Chris Wagner," Pearn said. "The Predators got caught in the offensive zone and decided to change and Anaheim's defensemen - pretty sure it was Brandon Montour -- read it and jumped into the play. Wagner got the rebound and scored.

"Then with the go-ahead goal for Nashville by Pontus Aberg in the third period, it's the same sort of thing. Anaheim got caught in the offensive zone and two forwards decided to change and Nashville jumped an extra man up and they got the puck through to Bernier and Aberg was there to pop in the rebound."

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Wilson chips in PPG off the post

Pearn said he has frequently seen Nashville's determination to keep its defensemen at the offensive blue line to try to keep pucks alive in the offensive zone. It has worked often but it has also left them vulnerable at times because there have been big gaps in the middle of the ice between the Predators defensemen.

"That split defense, if they don't keep a puck in, they leave space in the middle and I think of one play early of the game where Anaheim's Cam Fowler read it well and took advantage when he got a breakaway," Pearn said. "That one could have changed the game early. It's certainly something Anaheim will be looking for going forward. They've caught them at least a couple of times in this series."

In Game 5, Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves and was his usual stingy self.

"He was really, really good," Pearn said. "The confidence was evident. He seemed to be more of top of handling those outside shots and he smothered a lot of pucks, really controlled things."

The Ducks held a 31-27 edge in faceoff wins in Game 5 but Pearn senses a shift taking place in the series in that department.

"The last couple of games, the Ducks haven't been able to win any key faceoffs in the offensive zone," Pearn said. "There were four faceoffs down the stretch in Game 5, any one of them that could have created a key chance for a tying goal, but Anaheim didn't win a single one of them. Nashville has done a terrific job of battling and coming up with those pucks.

"In the early part of the series, those were Anaheim pucks."

The bottom line on Game 5 for Pearn was that the Predators found a way under difficult circumstances, and they did it by returning to the foundation of what has made them successful in the playoffs.

"Their awareness was really good defensively," Pearn said. "They, to me, were back looking like the team they were against Chicago in the first round, when it was so hard to get good chances against them, and when you did, Rinne was just really good."

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