The Western Conference Final between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks has now turned into a best-of-three, with the series shifting back to Anaheim this evening. The team that comes away with a victory in Game Five will be one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and the Predators are looking forward to that chance.
However, Nashville will enter Game Five without the services of one of their top players. Center Ryan Johansen, who leads the team in scoring in these playoffs with 13 points, sustained a left thigh injury in Game Four that required emergency surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Johansen's surgery was successful, but he will miss the remainder of the playoffs for the Predators.
Game Four saw Nashville battle back once more in the third period to even the score at 2-2 with 35 seconds to play in regulation, courtesy of Filip Forsberg, but Corey Perry ended it in overtime to give the Ducks their second win of the series.
After Johansen, Filip Forsberg leads the club in points with 12. Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson have 10 points apiece while P.K. Subban has nine. Forsberg leads the club with seven goals, while Josi and James Neal have five tallies each. Pekka Rinne carries a 10-4 record with a .940 save percentage in these playoffs.
Ryan Getzlaf remains at the top of the Ducks leaderboard with 18 points, followed by Jakob Silfverberg and Rickard Rakell with 13 points each. Silfverberg has nine goals, Getzlaf has eight and Rickard has scored on seven occasions. John Gibson owns nine wins and a .917 save percentage in 15 starts.
As the Predators look to go back on top in the Western Conference Final, here are three things to watch for:
Video: Peter Laviolette talks crucial Game 5 in Anaheim
Through 14 games in these playoffs, Nashville has yet to lose back-to-back contests. That includes a win in Game Three over Anaheim after the Ducks took Game Two at Honda Center. Even in their overtime loss in Game Four, the Preds had stretches of domination, as they've shown in pretty much every game of the postseason to date. That leaves room for confidence as both teams are now two wins away from advancing.
"The important thing, I think, is always turning the page," Laviolette said. "[Game Four] was tough. Guys battled hard and fought back after a tough start and put themselves into a position to win a game. But you get into overtime and it just takes one funny bounce and the game can swing in a different direction. So we're turning the page, heading out to Anaheim, looking to get back going in the right direction."
Nashville's first period in Game Four was arguably their poorest of the postseason - registering just two shots on goal to Anaheim's 14 and being outplayed for most of the stanza. After the game, Laviolette stated that his team has a standard of play they expect out of themselves, and that the club was nowhere near reaching that level in the opening frame.
A group that has produced solid first-period efforts on the road in these playoffs, Nashville will look to break the ice and get the first goal, just as they've done in both games in Anaheim thus far.
"It's just tough to explain what really happened," defenseman Yannick Weber said of the first period in Game Four. "They were really desperate and we just couldn't match their intensity. But we were lucky to go down only one in the first, and we know we have to be better… It's in their building. They're definitely going to be motivated and ready to go, so we'll have to be ready as well."
Video: Neal, Arvidsson and Weber discuss Game 5 vs. Ducks
What's Done Is Done:
It can be easy, especially at this time of the year, to think, 'What if that shot hadn't hit the post? What if we had gotten one more bounce?'
That won't do anyone any good, however, and the Predators know that. So going into Game Five, they're bringing the same quiet confidence they've had throughout the entire postseason, something that has given them repeated success.
"I think over the past few years, we've grown and we've learned that you can't dwell on things," forward James Neal said. "And we have to look at our game, be honest with ourselves and we have to come out and have a better start. You don't want to put yourself behind in games, have to fight back. But that being said, we did a great job of tying the game up, giving ourselves a chance to win in overtime in our home rink. And that's a good thing. But we'll be ready to go [today]."
Take It In:
Game Five in Anaheim comes with a 6:15 p.m. CT start and can be seen on NBC nationally or heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.
For additional details on today's game and where to watch it, visit the Predators Playoff Hub.