By Amanda DiPaolo
After Nashville squandered a two-goal lead, Mike Fisher scored the game-winning goal in the middle of the third period to give the Predators the 4-3 win and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Quarter Final for the second consecutive year.
The Predators dominated all but the last three minutes of the first forty minutes of play, leading in faceoff percentage, hits, and shots on goal.
Nashville opened scoring on the power play when Martin Erat picked up his first goal of the post season with five minutes left to play in the opening frame, just 8 seconds left on the power play. With Luca Sbisa in the box for roughing, Erat’s wrist shot went over the glove of Ray Emery after Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky went to hit the puck out of harms way, but missed it.
Jordin Tootoo picked up his first goal of the post-season 38 seconds later. Ryan Getzlaf coughed up the puck and Tootoo capitalized. Tootoo’s initial shot hit the post, but he buried the rebound for the 2-0 lead.
Nashville maintained the lead and the domination through the second period until Shane O’Brien got called for elbowing with 2:31 left in the middle frame.
Teemu Selanne proceeded to score two goals 30 seconds apartto tie the game. Selanne’s first goal came off a cross-ice pass from Corey Perry while on the power play with O’Brien in the box. His second goal was scored 30 seconds later when a bad bounce off the end board sent the puck straight to the 40-year old right in front of Rinne.
Despite scoring two goals in the second period, and four in the series, Selanne was not shy about his assessment of the Ducks’ play. “We had no business in this _____ game. They wanted it more. They won the battles. We were lucky to even be in the game. I’m very disappointed,” Selanne said. “That’s not the way we should play. That’s embarrassing.”
The Ducks and Predators would exchange goals in the third period before Fisher would score to put Nashville ahead for the final time. David Legwand gave Nashville the initial 3-2 lead, only to have the Ducks tie it up on a goal from Matt Beleskey.
Fisher gave Nashville the 4-3 lead with his third goal of the series. Sergei Kostitsyn found Fisher with a cross-ice pass and Fisher gave his linemate the credit for the goal. “Sergei made a beautiful play. I was in the right spot, I guess.”
Nashville went on the power play with just 2:20 left in regulation. Saku Koivu was called for hooking Jon Blum. A late power play with a one-goal lead was reminiscent of Game 5 of last year’s Western Conference Quarter Final when the Predators were just under 14 seconds away from taking a 3-2 series lead against Chicago. Chicago tied the game and went on to score in overtime, and then win Game 6 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
Sunday night, the Predators would not repeat past mistakes. “I think we exorcised a little ghost there,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said.
Rinne, who allowed three goals on 16 shots, picked up his second win of the series. “It was a hard game. It seems like the chances they get are usually on the power play,” Rinne said, adding, “Even though they are not giving you much, they are not shooting the puck, it makes it a little bit challenging. But I’m lucky tonight, I got help. We scored four huge goals.”
Nashville outshot Anaheim 37-16.
Bobby Ryan didn’t play for Anaheim. He was serving the first of a two-game suspension and will be out of the lineup again for Game 4 on Wednesday.
The Predators will now try to take a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history on Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Game time is at 7:30 CT in Nashville. Tickets are still available, but won’t be for long. Sunday afternoon’s game was a sold out crowd.
Photo Credit: AP
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