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Predators top Ducks, take first-ever 2-0 series lead

Ekholm, Smith and Weber score from Nashville; Rinne makes 27 saves

by Abbey Mastracco / NHL.com Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- The Nashville Predators won the first two games of a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in franchise history by holding off the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round on Sunday at Honda Center.

Mattias Ekholm, Craig Smith and Shea Weber scored for the Predators, and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves. The series continues Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena (9:30 p.m. ET: USA, SN360, TVA Sports 2, PRIME, FS-TN).

"They had their looks and we had ours," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "They had the first 10 minutes of the first period but I thought we took it back a little bit in the second part of the first period. We were able to get some goals in the second period but it was just tight out there both ways. It was physical, it was tight and each team had their looks."

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Weber launches a power-play goal

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau didn't agree. He felt his team lost its composure and took too many penalties. Nashville had five power plays; Anaheim had one.

"We were just stupid out there," Boudreau said. "The penalties we take sometimes are just so selfish and so dumb… Quite frankly, we don't deserve a break if we're just going to be yelling and being stupid all night long."

Nashville scored three straight goals after Andrew Cogliano put Anaheim ahead 1-0 at 14:20 of the first period by beating Rinne on a breakaway. Weber attempted to dump the puck into the offensive zone but Cogliano blocked it, raced in alone and slid a backhand shot through the goaltender's five-hole.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Cogliano slips it five-hole in the 1st

The Ducks continued to pressure Rinne, who stopped Ryan Kesler from point-blank range with 1:09 remaining in the period.

"He's been terrific, he looked great in there," Laviolette said of his goaltender. "We always accepted a little bit of responsibility three or four months ago for not doing the right things in front of him, and now we've been a little bit better in front of him. But there's always saves that need to be made and he made the saves tonight, especially early on. He gave us an opportunity to stay in that game."

The Predators tied it 13 seconds later when Colin Wilson broke away from defenseman Simon Despres and found Ekholm down low. The defenseman lifted a high backhand shot that hit the stick of Ducks goaltender John Gibson and went into the net.

"Ekholm's [goal] was big," Weber said. "We got better as the period went on. That helped us keep it even."

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Smith rips one past Gibson for a lead

Smith put the Predators ahead 2-1 at 9:55 of the second period when he found a soft spot in the defense, took a passout from Filip Forsberg and beat Gibson from 10 feet. Weber made it 3-1 with 38.8 seconds left in the period when he took a cross-ice pass from defense partner Roman Josi and one-timed it past Gibson from just above the left circle.

"As far as there being a mistake on Smith's goal, we could have come out and looked tighter and our right wing could have come in and taken him and that's his job," Boudreau said. "I thought the Weber goal, we showed a lot of courage by getting in front of him two other times but even when they scored; we still tried to get in front of him and just missed him. It was a good screen."

The Predators limited the Ducks to three shots in the first 17 minutes of the third period before Nate Thompson cut the lead to 3-2 with 2:42 left when his backhand shot from the slot deflected off Josi's stick and went past Rinne. The Ducks quickly pulled Gibson for an extra attacker but managed only one more shot on goal.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm2: Ekholm beats Gibson high from the slot

"We played a heck of a road game," Ekholm said. "It's not always pretty, but we're always battling hard. We always try to be on the right side and do the right things. It was a great effort by everyone tonight. They're a hard team. They came out hard. They're physical and fast, but we managed."

Gibson made 24 saves and is 2-4 for his career in the postseason. Boudreau said his performance was "OK" and he'll consult goaltending coach Dwayne Roloson to see which goals, if any, he can be faulted for before deciding whether to play Gibson or Frederik Andersen in Game 3.

Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa returned from an upper-body injury. In his first game since March 24, he played 17:46 and had one hit, one blocked shot and no shots on goal in three attempts.

Video: Predators take 2-0 series lead with 3-2 win

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