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Instant analysis: Predators vs. Ducks, Game 1

Nashville proved it can play on equal terms with Anaheim

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

ANAHEIM -- The Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at Honda Center on Friday.

What we learned: These teams are more evenly matched than many believed. The wild-card Predators finished seven points behind the Pacific Division champion Ducks, but each team was playing great hockey entering the postseason. Despite being on the road, Nashville carried the play for long stretches and played a near-perfect game, bottling up the Anaheim attack. Also, teams from different divisions can build a rivalry quickly. These teams had not played each other since Nov. 17, but it did not take long for the rancor to reach fever pitch.

What this means for the Predators: Confidence. It was one thing for the Predators to say they could play with the Ducks, one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the end of the regular season. It was another to come into a revved-up building and take it to the No. 2 seed in the West, silencing the home fans in the process. For the Predators, it is no longer a belief they are on equal footing in this series, but rather a fact.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm1: Neal goes five-hole for early goal

What this means for the Ducks: The loss should serve as a wake-up call for the Ducks, who were 9-4-2 in their final 15 games of the regular season and haven't lost two straight games in regulation since March 9 and 11. The Ducks were not ready at the start of the game. They allowed a first-minute goal by James Neal and didn't manage their first shot until the seventh minute. In fact, it took a 5-on-3 power play to get the Ducks attack fully on track. Anaheim knows it will need a better start, and longer stretches of dominating play, in Game 2.

Key moment: The winning goal, by left wing Filip Forsberg, began with a calculated gamble of a pinch at the attacking blue line by Anaheim defenseman Simon Despres. It failed, and Forsberg was sprung the other way. He looked for the pass as soon as he entered the offensive zone and finally tried to find center Craig Smith, who was covered by defenseman Shea Theodore as he drove the net. The pass banked off Theodore's skate and trickled just out of the reach of goaltender Josh Gibson and across the goal line at 10:25 of the third period.

Unsung player of the game: Center Colin Wilson tied the score 2-2 at 7:55 of the second period, redirecting a pass from Ryan Ellis while having one hand on his stick. It was a goal-scorer's goal by a player who did not have a goal-scoring season. Wilson, among the biggest enigmas on this season's Predators, had six goals after scoring 20 in 2014-15. Wilson scored once since Feb. 27.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm1: Wilson uses one hand to tip puck home

What's next: Game 2 is at Honda Center on Sunday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, FS-TN, PRIME).

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