OT Bounce Back:
For the third-straight game, the Predators allowed the first goal. For the second-straight game, it wasn't an issue. After Nashville rallied to take a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Ducks forced overtime. That was fine, too.
Nashville's resiliency was on full display once more as they began the Western Conference Final on Friday night in Anaheim. They haven't had to come back often in the playoffs, but it hasn't been much of an issue, as the Preds now own a 3-1 record when allowing the game's first tally.
The most noticeable response from Nashville came in overtime after the Preds had been outshot 10-7 in the third period and allowed the game-tying goal by Hampus Lindholm.
In the extra session, the visitors flipped the script seen during the past 20 minutes of game time, pounding seven shots on the Anaheim net (compare to the Ducks' two) and registered a Corsi-for rating of 62.5 percent (meaning a high shot differential in favor of Nashville).
At 9:24 of overtime, James Neal's one-timer found twine.
"[The Ducks] carried the play a little bit in the third period," Preds forward Austin Watson said. "They had a great push and were able to tie it up, and just for us to go in at the intermission there and come out the way that we did in overtime, I thought we had a great overtime, and obviously we got the goal to put the game in our favor."
Both of the Predators overtime wins in the 2017 postseason (2-0) have featured Nashville down on the scoreboard in some capacity, and Roman Josi says the Preds belief in their game plan has helped their moxie show through.
"We just stayed with it. Nobody panicked, and I thought we had a really good start, really good first period and then they scored that first goal," Josi said. "We just kept coming at them and had lots of chances... In the third, I thought we stood back a little too much and they got the tying goal, but great job by our guys staying calm and getting the win.
Stout Penalty Kill:
It's been a little while since the Preds allowed a power-play goal, killing off 13-straight penalties in the postseason. Special teams always seem to play a monumental factor in the playoffs, and clubs that can either capitalize on the man advantage, or turn away the opposition, usually find success.
There are a number of different factors that have led to Nashville's penalty-kill prowess of late, as explained by someone directly contributing to it's success.
"You have to be willing to sacrifice your body and get in shooting lanes and just kind of disrupt," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We've been doing a good job with our sticks on entries and getting our sticks in passing lanes, and all that stuff's important. We've done a good job also of getting 200-foot clears, when we have a chance to clear the zone we're clearing 200 feet, so that's got to continue."
But the old adage that your goaltender is your best penalty killer is also quite accurate for the Preds.
"Pekka's the biggest reason," defenseman Josi said of the penalty kill. "Goaltenders are always your best penalty killer, and he's done a great job. But just guys sacrificing, guys getting in and blocking shots as well."
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm1: Forsberg redirects Irwin's shot home
Quality vs. Quantity:
The Predators had their chances in Game One - 46 shots to be exact - including 15 alone in the first period and then 17 more in the second. With three goals past John Gibson, it was enough to take a 1-0 series lead.
In fact, it was the fifth time the Preds have registered more than 45 shots on goal in a playoff game in franchise history and the second time this postseason.
So were the Preds pleased with the quality of shots they put at the Anaheim cage?
"I think we can [improve]; I mean, we've got to keep shooting," Josi said. "I thought we did a good job again of getting pucks to the net, and it's always important, it's part of our mentality to get as many shots as we can."
A look at shot heat map (below) via Natural Stat Trick shows the Predators were forced to the outer portions of the offensive zone for a fair amount of their shots, while the Ducks were predominantly concentrated to the slot. If it's worth being picky about Nashville's approach to Game Two, and history would say it is, then the Preds aiming a few more shots on the Ducks' net from between the circles would likely go a long way in producing another goal or two.
"Last game we played well, we had the start that we wanted to, but I still think we can play a lot better," d-man P.K. Subban said. "Was that a full 60 minutes? Maybe not. But it was good enough for us to get the win. I think that we're just going to have to continue to do those little things that have brought us success and attacking and defending as five-man unit. We have done that stuff extremely well in the playoffs, we've just got to get back to it."
Where Do We Go From Here?
In Round One, the Predators added to a Game One win by notching a second consecutive shutout and blasting the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-0. It still may be their best game of the playoffs to date.
The Preds won Game One in Round Two as well, but their second act in the series was not particularly strong as Nashville lost a third-period lead and ultimately the game, 3-2.
"I thought we were better at it in the first series than the second series," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of carrying over a strong Game One into Game Two. "I thought St. Louis had a little bit more zip than us in Game Two, although I don't think we played a bad game.
"I think it's just about trying to stay consistent with your effort, both mentally and physically. Our guys know... you probably let your guard down, you're not going to like the way the game ends, so that's a choice at that point, and our guys have done a pretty good job of staying focused.
From a high-level view, the Predators were the aggressor through periods one and two in Game One versus Anaheim, but gave up ground in the third. That's one area worth improving. As are the quality of shots, as was mentioned above.
"I definitely liked our start," Watson said. "We came out, we were playing with good speed, really physical. We were getting pucks to the net, and that's a big thing for us is getting to the net. I think we can get there with a little more traffic and just continue to play that way throughout the entire game. I thought we dipped maybe a little bit, but that's the playoffs. They got a little bit of momentum, and they came with a push, but great on us to come back from that and be able to get the win."