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Ducks' Garbutt simply effective in Game 5

Gritty forward scores big goal, helps Anaheim take 3-2 series lead on Nashville

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

ANAHEIM -- Anaheim Ducks right wing Ryan Garbutt is asked to play a simple game, but those who play the game the way Garbutt does know it is far from simple to execute.

Countless decisions have to be made at top speed, especially on the forecheck. The line between constructive aggression and the type of play that can leave a team shorthanded for two minutes is often razor-thin, and a forechecker is supposed to come out on the right side of those decisions every time.

Once possession is achieved, what then? Rim it around the wall to continue the cycling game? Is someone open for a scoring chance? Does the forechecker have the opportunity to score himself?

Each of those options needs to be weighed and the correct decision reached in a nanosecond.

Garbutt did all of that Saturday in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators, and the beauty within the supposed simplicity of it all was breathtaking.

The Ducks, by their own admission, were lucky to be tied 1-1 with the Predators in the second period. Nashville was the better team for the first 35 minutes, but a fluke goal by David Perron 22 seconds after Ryan Johansen opened the scoring had the two teams in a dead heat.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Garbutt banks it off Rinne and in

On the next shift for Anaheim's first line, which now features Garbutt, Perron and center Ryan Getzlaf, the puck went into the Nashville end and top defenseman Shea Weber and center Mike Fisher went to retrieve it, but Garbutt refused to let it happen.

He muscled the puck from Weber, and then whipped it at the net, catching goalie Pekka Rinne on a scramble to get the post sealed. The puck bounced off Rinne and went into the net.

Garbutt interpreted every piece of information and made every right decision on the play. As a result, it was 2-1, and Anaheim had a lead it would not relinquish.

"When you play against guys like them, you just have to outwork them," Garbutt said of the steady diet of Weber and defenseman Roman Josi he has seen for the past few games. "They play the game hard and they play the game smart, and you have to be at your best.

"I've scored a couple of goals like that before when I have just surprised the goalie and I kind of had that in the back of my mind. Once I turned the puck over, I just wanted to get it on net as fast as possible."

Garbutt has played for three teams in the past two seasons. In 2014-15, he played for the Dallas Stars. This season, he began with the Chicago Blackhawks, dreaming of an opportunity to go deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the defending champions.

On Jan. 21, he was traded to the Ducks. Anaheim was trying to fight its way out of an early season tailspin, and the decision was made that more speed and grit on the wings was the answer.

Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler had played a few games against Garbutt in the past. Often, Garbutt was a fourth-line irritant, tasked with playing a bit of a demolition-derby game to get the opposition off its game.

But something more was always there.

"He's the type of guy you are happy is on your side," Fowler said. "That is what he needs to do. He is an energy-type guy and he can skate. His top-end speed is as high as anybody I have seen. When he does that, he is a load to handle. He did a great job of that tonight."

What Garbutt accomplished Saturday was a result of the confidence Boudreau had in promoting him when the series was at its nadir for the Ducks.

"He's as good a forechecker as we have. He's responsible defensively, and if people take liberties, he's not afraid to mix it up," Boudreau said in explaining his rationale for the decision.

A byproduct of moving Garbutt to the top line was that it elongated the Ducks attack. The first line was still dangerous, but the second and fourth line were given a jolt. The third line, anchored by center Ryan Kesler, has virtually checked Nashville's top unit out of this series.

Now, the Ducks are one win from advancing to the second round. They have overcome the early hardships of the playoffs and prospered.

For Garbutt, the journey the Ducks have made in the past nine days is similar to the one they made in going from also-rans to Pacific Division champions during the regular season.

"Obviously, I was a little surprised to get traded and I was watching Anaheim from afar this year and saw the tough run they had at the start of the year, and I wasn't able to be a part of that, but I saw the way this team came together at the right time," he said. "I thought the way we lost those first two games at home [in the playoffs] was kind of rock bottom for us. It was almost like we were in that same mold from earlier in the year. This was definitely a character-builder for us."

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