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Coach's analysis: Pekka Rinne not sharp for Predators vs. Ducks in Game 2

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn says goal allowed by Nashville late in first period was turning point

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.

Pearn also has a gold medal as coach (1993) and two golds as an assistant (1990, 1991) with Canada's national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.


ANAHEIM -- The turning point of Game 2 of the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators came earlier than many fans might have thought, longtime NHL assistant Perry Pearn said.

The Ducks defeated the Predators 5-3 at Honda Center on Sunday, tying the best-of-7 series 1-1.


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Ducks series coverage]


Game 3 is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"I'm not trying to be Captain Obvious here but the big difference in the game for me was that [Predators goalie] Pekka Rinne wasn't as sharp as he was in the first game," Pearn said. "And that led to the turning point in the game. I never heard them say this on TV but Anaheim's first goal late in the first period, by Sami Vatanen, was a nice shot but Rinne was off his angle and that's probably a bad goal.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Vatanen blisters a slapper for PPG

"When you saw the replay, a goalie shouldn't leave that much room. His catching glove from that angle was outside the back of the net. Maybe Rinne got caught off guard a little as quick as Anaheim transitioned that puck and came on the rush, so give Anaheim some credit there.

"If the Ducks don't score that goal, you may have seen a different result."

As you might suspect, a game with more goals -- Game 2 had eight and Game 1 had five -- indicates to a coach that there were more breakdowns.

"Technically in terms of execution, it was not quite as good as Game 1," Pearn said. "There were more turnovers and guys missed more assignments than the first game but I certainly thought it was contested as hard as the first one, though maybe not quite as physical."

Much of the talk after Game 2 centered on goaltending and Rinne, who allowed four goals on 16 shots through two periods.

"It's a deceptive shot (Nick Ritchie's goal that put the Ducks ahead 4-3) but you could believe that [Predators coach] Peter Laviolette is probably calling that a bad goal," Pearn said. "I think over the course of the playoffs to this point, Rinne has been so good for them that you're bound to have a game where you're not quite as sharp and I think [Game 2] was that game for him."

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Ritchie rifles shot in off Rinne's mask

Another issue Pearn returned to was special teams. The Predators were 0-for-3 on the power play and the Ducks were 1-for-2.

"Reiterating what I said the other day," Pearn said, "if Nashville is going to win this series, at some point its power play has to win a game for them."

Another interesting development was what happened when the Predators fell behind and started pressing for more offense. They gave up some odd-man rushes, something Pearn thinks will be key to watch in games ahead.

"Rinne made some good saves during those," Pearn said. "One thing that's going to be tough for Nashville if they get down, they're more aggressive and more vulnerable. Anaheim's probably looking for that, to take advantage, but I do love how Nashville's defensemen, when they're defending a 2-on-1, they play them very, very well.

"I saw this in earlier series, too, those defensemen seem to pressure the guy with the puck at the key moment to make a decision and they play it, set it up so Rinne can be fairly aggressive. They deny the pass most times. I give them a lot of credit how they play those."

Pearn said he was not surprised by the most high-profile matchup of the game, Anaheim center Ryan Kesler checking so tightly on Nashville center Ryan Johansen.

"That matchup is Kesler's strength," Pearn said. "He does all those things… it's the mental battle he wants to get in. He wants his matchup guy to think about him and not his responsibilities. By the end of the game, he got under Johansen's skin a bit. I wouldn't say he was off his game but certainly he was focused on other things. He laid a good lick on Kesler at one point, which is good, but Ryan Johansen isn't one who should be looking to finish checks in the neutral zone. He should be concerned about finishing in offensive end.

"It will be important that he refocus, probably something Laviolette and his staff will work on going back to Nashville, that his focus is the game and not worrying about Kesler."

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