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Conference Final

Ducks again struggle in third period, lose Game 5 vs. Predators

Can be eliminated in Game 6 of Western Conference Final on Monday

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Team Third Period is hitting the wall at the most critical juncture of the Western Conference Final.

That would be the Anaheim Ducks.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Ducks series coverage | Gibson leaves Game 5 against Predators]

 

The same Ducks who once seemed to own the third period in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anything seemed possible with them late in the game, facing pressure cranked up to the highest level. Example No. 1 was their unprecedented rally against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round, when they scored three goals in the final 3:16 of Game 5.

Now they've lost the plot in the third period.

They've been outscored 6-0 in the third over their past three games against the Nashville Predators. Nashville is one win from reaching its first Stanley Cup Final after a 3-1 victory against Anaheim in Game 5 at Honda Center on Saturday.

The Predators lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 with Game 6 in Nashville on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

One more loss and the Ducks' playoff window of opportunity will slam shut for another year.

Suddenly, the Ducks have multiple issues. There's the health of No. 1 goaltender John Gibson, who sustained a lower-body injury during the first period and did not play in the final two periods.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Bernier takes over for injured Gibson

Forward Rickard Rakell, who led the Ducks with 33 goals in the regular season, missed Game 5 because of a lower-body injury and is day to day.

The Predators, however, were without two leaders, forwards Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen, and Johansen is out for the rest of the playoffs after having surgery on his left thigh.

"It's playoff hockey," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "You look at their lineup and they're depleted as well. That's the way playoffs go when you get down to it."

But their third-period shortcomings were a primary focus on Saturday. They had one shot on goal in the final 3:28.

How can the Ducks have a stronger finish in Game 6?

"Maybe make a little more space between them and us before we get to that area," coach Randy Carlyle said. "When you play in the conference final, you're not playing against chopped liver here. There's good teams and good structure and hard-working teams. To get here, it takes a lot of fortitude, and to some degree, you're playing against teams that have earned the right to be here.

"So I don't look at it as that's a huge negative. All I know is they have a 3-2 lead. We're going into their building, and we've won there before. So I feel like our group can go into any building and play well and give us a chance for success."

Center Ryan Kesler has one point in five games against Nashville and has one goal in 16 games in the playoffs, against the Oilers in Game 3. Forward Andrew Cogliano has zero points against the Predators and Getzlaf has been scoreless in four of the five games in this series, including the past three.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Carlyle on Ducks' concerns in Game 5

The special teams were an issue, again. The Ducks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and Nashville got its first goal, on the power play, in the final minute of the second period to make it 1-1.

Carlyle said of the special-teams battle, "You always have to feel that you're going to give yourself the best chance by winning that game within the game.

"So is it an area of concern? Sure, it's a concern. But we have a lot of areas of concern off our performance tonight. Again, we're not going to hang our head with doom and gloom. We're going to approach this. We'll flush this. We'll get ourselves ready. We'll re-energize our group, and we'll look forward to playing a better game than we played tonight."

Nevertheless, this had the feel of a lost opportunity for the Ducks.

Getzlaf didn't even hesitate when presented with that narrative.

"100 percent," he said. "I thought we had energy coming out and it deteriorated throughout the game. We've got to do a better job maintaining what we want to do with our game plan."

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