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Instant analysis: Predators at Ducks, Game 7

Rinne's 36 saves help Nashville advance to second round against San Jose

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

ANAHEIM -- The Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round at Honda Center on Wednesday.

The Predators, the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, advance to play the San Jose Sharks in the second round. The Sharks, who finished third in the Pacific Division, defeated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the first round.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne made 36 saves in the decisive game.

The loss was the fourth in Game 7 for the Ducks in as many years. Each has come on home ice.

Center Colin Wilson scored an unassisted goal at 6:19 of the first period, and center Paul Gaustad tipped in a Shea Weber slap shot at 15:53 of the period to make it 2-0. Anaheim center Ryan Kesler cut the lead in half with a power-play goal at 1:45 of the third period.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm7: Gaustad redirects shot to extend lead

What we learned: Game 7 is Anaheim's kryptonite. In each of the past four seasons, the Ducks have been forced to play a Game 7 at home and they have lost each.

Last season, the Ducks lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. In 2014, it was the Kings pulling off the Game 7 victory, in the second round. In 2013, the eighth-seeded Detroit Red Wings upset the Ducks in Game 7. The theme through each of those games: The Ducks have allowed the first goal early in the first period. Wednesday was the first time they made it beyond five minutes before allowing a goal.

What this means for the Predators: They will be playing in the second round for the first time since 2012, under then-coach Barry Trotz, and the third time in their history. Nashville won the first Game 7 in its history by putting together a fast start and scoring two goals during a 9:34 span in the first period. The Predators now face the Sharks for the right to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time in their history.

What this means for the Ducks: More changes are likely. There are tweaks every offseason, and Anaheim has gone through its fair share, including this past summer, but there has just been too much disappointment in the past four years to stay on the same track. Coach Bruce Boudreau was on the hot seat when the Ducks struggled at the start of the season. He will be on it again after the Ducks coughed up a 3-2 series lead and lost again at home in Game 7.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm7: Rinne denies scoring chance in the 3rd

Key moment: With 12:38 left in the game, Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm took a shot from the point that eluded Rinne but hit the post. The puck then careened into the slot, where Anaheim right wing Corey Perry had a whack at it but somehow missed it. At that point, Nashville defenseman Roman Josi, from his knees, shuffleboarded the puck through the legs of his goalie and out of the crease. It was Anaheim's best chance to tie it.

Unsung player of the game: Defenseman Ryan Ellis plays in the shadow of top-two defensemen Weber and Josi, but he was not in the shadow of anyone in Game 7. He played the most time in the first period, he killed penalties and he played on the power play. He had a dominant penalty kill during James Neal's elbowing penalty in the second period, forcing a takeaway and ragging the clock a bit with a foray into the offensive zone.

What's next: Game 1 of Nashville's second-round series is in San Jose on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). The Predators won't have much time to rest, but they won't need it as they ride an emotional high into the next round.

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