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Preds shut down high-powered Ducks in 4-1 win

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The abundance of storylines built into the opening-round matchup between Anaheim and Nashville was what made it so juicy.

Anaheim's top line vs. Nashville's dynamic defensive duo. The Predators' stingy penalty kill vs. the Ducks' proficient power play.

It turned out that an early lead backed by sound defense in front of Pekka Rinne stole the show.

Mike Fisher scored two goals and Rinne made 27 saves Wednesday night as Nashville defeated Anaheim 4-1  in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Honda Center.

Nashville's stifling defensive style negated Anaheim's vaunted attack as the Predators yanked away the home-ice advantage that the Ducks achieved just five days ago.

"That's huge -- getting the first one," Fisher said. "It feels good, but that second one is going to be even harder. We know that they're going to adjust and regroup and play real hard here in a couple of nights."

It's only the second time in seven tries that Nashville has won Game 1. The Predators defeated Chicago last season but fell to the Blackhawks in six games. Nashville has yet to win a playoff series.

Anaheim entered Wednesday with the NHL's second-ranked power play while Nashville owned the No. 5 penalty-killing unit. But Nashville got just as many power plays as the Ducks (five), capitalized on an early man advantage and built on that lead – the same formula that got the Predators into the playoffs.

"That's our game," Rinne said. "Play solid defensively and just execute when we get the turnovers and when we get scoring chances. We did an outstanding job tonight."

Fisher fired home a wrister from near the left faceoff dot at 18:08 of the second period to make it 3-0, then zipped home a wrist shot from the high slot 56 seconds into the third that chased Dan Ellis.

Rinne was fewer than 10 minutes away from his first playoff shutout before Teemu Selanne scored during a two-man advantage.

But Anaheim was skating uphill long before that.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle continued where he left off at the end of the regular season when he occasionally took Bobby Ryan off the top line with usual partners Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.  Ryan was dropped to the third line with Brandon McMillan and Matt Beleskey for balance, but by the halfway point of the second period he was back with Getzlaf and Perry as Nashville dictated the pace.

Ryan and Getzlaf had one shot apiece. Perry, the NHL's goal-scoring leader, had five shots but was a team-worst minus-3.

Ellis, a former Predator, knows better than anyone what the Ducks are up against.

"They're a very stingy hockey team," Ellis said. "They really swarm you. They do a good job of putting pressure on guys. They're out to the points and stuff like that. They don't allow a lot of point shots through, and the ones that do get through, a lot of times they'll block and clear away. We really have to outwork that team."

Carlyle had the final line change and was usually able to get Getzlaf and Perry away from Nashville's stellar defensive tandem of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, preferring to put Jason Blake, Saku Koivu and Selanne out against the pair.

But Weber and Suter made a difference offensively.

On Nashville's first power play, Fisher fed Suter, who slid a pass across to Weber at the right point for a screened slap shot that hit the back of the net at 4:13 for a 1-0 lead.

Rinne made a masterful save late in the period to preserve that lead when he stuck out his right pad to deny Selanne.

"It was big for us and for myself, too, but it's part of the game," Rinne said "At the time I was just happy to make the save."

Nashville made it 2-0 at 15:16 of the second when Steve Sullivan raced down the right wing, cut in on goal and tapped in his own rebound after Ellis sprawled to make a pad save.

Sullivan was questionable because he is coming back from March groin surgery but he was pronounced ready by coach Barry Trotz on Wednesday morning.

Patric Hornqvist then carried into the zone and fed Fisher, who roofed a wrist shot from the left dot over the left shoulder of Ellis for a three-goal lead going into the third.

"He's a good shooter," Ellis said. "He's got a heavy shot and you have to respect that."

Fisher was acquired in February from Ottawa for his two-way play. His 75 career playoff games help, too.

"He's got the most experience on the ice, as far as I can see," Weber said. "He's been to the Cup Finals and that's irreplaceable, so hopefully he can help us out.

"I think everyone saw what he can do defensively and how good he is on the PK all year. For him to come out and get two goals is huge."
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