The Preds beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game Two of their Western Conference First Round series on Sunday night at the Honda Center to take a commanding lead away from Music City. Nashville got better throughout the night and eventually wore down the Ducks on their way to a victory.
“Everyone in this room believes that we’re capable of doing this, and I think we showed we can beat any team,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “Anaheim was No. 1 in their division and have a heck of a hockey team, but the way we’re playing right now, and we have [Pekka Rinne] in net, he’s awesome every night, and we’ve just got to keep battling.”
Rinne made a number of impressive saves throughout the first period, including a point-blank robbery of Ryan Kesler in tight, as Anaheim pressed from the start of the contest. That pressure eventually paid off at 14:20 as Andrew Cogliano made it 1-0 Ducks when he scored on a breakaway.
But after the Anaheim tally, the Preds went to work, quickly catching the Ducks in the shot category before Ekholm evened the score. Colin Wilson found Ekholm, a defenseman, in the low slot, where the Swede backhanded a shot top shelf that beat Anaheim netminder John Gibson with 56 seconds remaining in the opening frame, a huge goal for the Preds before the stanza was out.
The Predators didn’t let up in the second, and it paid off. Craig Smith scored his first of the playoffs when he roofed a shot in front, thanks to a feed from Filip Forsberg from behind the cage. Later, Anaheim got into penalty trouble and gave Shea Weber one-too-many cracks at the one-timer from the left point, as the Captain ripped a shot past Gibson with the man advantage with 39 seconds to play in the second period. The tally was Weber’s first of the postseason, his 11th career playoff goal, and it gave Nashville a two-goal advantage into the second intermission.
The Ducks scored late, but Rinne and the Preds stood up to the final Anaheim push, as the Preds goaltender helped to steal another one in Orange County.
“He’s a terrific goalie,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. “We always accept a little bit of responsibility back three or four months ago for not doing the right things in front of him, and now we’re playing better in front of him. But there’s always saves that need to be made, and he made some terrific ones tonight, especially early on to stay in that game. He was real sharp.”
The Preds will be back in Nashville on Tuesday night for Game Three, and while the club is certainly pleased with what has transpired thus far, they know there’s still plenty of hockey to be played.
“We know there’s a lot of work to do,” Laviolette said. “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t finish it and follow it up. We have to keep working, keep an eye on what we’re doing here and just keep moving forward.”
Time Is On Your Side:
In Game One, it took the Predators 35 seconds to score the opening goal of the series. In Game Two, it wasn’t the beginning of the period, but rather the end of both the first and second frames, where Nashville found timely scores.
Mattias Ekholm’s goal with 56 seconds left in the first period, and then Shea Weber’s power-play tally with 39 ticks to go in the second gave Nashville all they needed to win their second game in a row to start the series.
“It’s a huge goal,” Ekholm said of his strike. “I can’t say it enough, it doesn’t matter when it comes, but when it comes at that point, when they have that kind of pressure on us, and I thought it was good to get some energy coming in.”
The goals took the life out of the Honda Center on both occasions, not to mention the boost they provided to the visitors in the locker room at the intermissions.
“The first period was big; you go into the room 1-1, and that was really big, but I do think we started to take the first period back,” Laviolette said. “We knew that they were going to come with some emotion, especially early on, and they did. Our guys did our best to hold up to that, and until we could start to play our game a little bit, I thought we did as the game went on, but those goals at the end of the period, especially the first one, they send you into the locker room in the right direction and the right frame of mind.”
At this time of year, the goals are crucial, no matter when they come. Nashville’s efforts when the time crunch was on proved to be particularly effective on this night, just one more positive to take away as the series moves along.
“Winning games isn’t easy,” Laviolette said. “It’s playoff hockey. Anaheim is a really good team. They played well tonight. I thought our guys played hard as well, and we were able to walk away with a couple of wins. We have to put it behind us and move forward, see if there’s things we can get better at out here.”
Gif of the Game:
Mattias Ekholm skates right into your living room after scoring the Predators first goal of the game.
Ryan Johansen on winning two games against Anaheim:
“It’s huge. That was our mindset. It’s very challenging, we’re going against a great hockey team, and we believe in ourselves. I think there’s a different view from outsiders looking in, but we feel like we came here, we had a game plan and we executed it well, and that’s why we’re leaving with two wins. We have a great hockey team here with a lot of great players, and I think the League will start to take some notice and put us on their radar because we feel very comfortable and confident in ourselves and our game. We’re definitely happy with the results we’ve had so far.”
Captain Shea Weber skated in his 47th career playoff game, all with the Preds, to tie David Legwand for the most postseason games played in franchise history. Weber is also two goals away from tying Legwand for the franchise lead in playoff goals; the captain currently has 11 postseason markers.
The series now shifts to Nashville, beginning on Tuesday night with Game Three from Bridgestone Arena (at 8:30 p.m. CT). Game Four comes Thursday in Music City.
See the location of the shots that found twine in tonight’s Game Two infographic.
Infographic: Duck Hunt Rolls On