The Nashville Predators had an opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history, but allowed three third period goals in a 6-3 loss to Anaheim.
The series is now tied up at 2 with the teams traveling to California for game 5 on Friday night.
The Ducks got out to a quick 2-0 lead early in the first period.
Cam Fowler opened scoring at 4:41 into the first period on the power play with Shane O’Brien in the box for boarding. Both Kevin Klein and Joel Ward each had opportunities to clear the puck but were unable to do so and the Ducks capitalized.
Saku Koivu scored 35 seconds later.
The Predators were able to draw within one when Patric Hornqvist scored on Nashville’s first shot of the game 31 seconds after the Koivu goal. It was Hornqvist’s second goal of the playoffs. Sergei Kostitsyn and Shea Weber picked up the assists.
Joel Ward picked up his second goal of the post-season 5:44 into the second period on the power play. Cody Franson took a shot from the point that was deflected in front by Ward. Steve Sullivan picked up the other assist.
Nashville was awarded a power play when Jarkko Ruutu hit Martin Erat and was called for interference. Erat left the game with an upper-body injury.
“He’s been there all year playing hard for us.” Ryan Suter said about losing Erat, adding “He’s one of our top players. It was an unfortunate hit. I don’t know what I can say, but it’s unfortunate. It’s too bad that he wasn’t able to come back.”
The Predators and Ducks would exchange another goal each in the second when Teemu Selanne scored his mandatory power play goal of the evening which was answered by Matt Halischuk.
With Halischuk’s goal, all but two Predators skaters have registered a point in the series. Only Nick Spaling and Shane O’Brien have failed to make the scoresheet.
The second period ended with Nick Bonino being assessed a delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the boards in the defensive zone. But the Predators were unable to capitalize at the start of the third period and it was the Ducks that scored on Nashville’s man advantage.
Corey Perry got the shorthanded goal stating that “[Brandon] McMillan got the puck and tried to make it a 2-on-2. He created space by dropping it and going through the middle to the net. He made a great screen and the puck found a way to get in.”
Perry’s goal came at 1:17 of the third period. Anaheim scored two more goals before the seven minute mark of the final frame to take a 6-3 lead in the game on goals by Ryan Getzlaf and McMillan.
“Perry scored a big goal there, shorthanded, which really turned the momentum for us,” Getzlaf said.
“It was disappointing,” Rinne said when asked about the third period. “Right away, on the power play they scored a penalty-killing goal, and it ended up being a huge goal for them. The whole night, I think, we didn’t respond very well. We still managed to be in the game and score three big goals. Going into the third, we still had a great chance to bring this game home, but personally and as a team we just have to be better,” he said.
Head Coach Barry Trotz agrees. “There were major blunders today, and I don’t think our defense corps played very well at all tonight. Defense is a five-man responsibility. I thought we didn’t go back hard to get pucks, we were making poor decisions. We weren’t very strong there. There were too many turnovers by our forwards in the neutral zone as well. We didn’t get pucks deep and we didn’t establish much of a forecheck,” he said.
The series now goes back to Anaheim in what amounts to a best of three series with the Ducks having home ice. Nashville will need to win one game on the road if they are going to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Game six is Friday night in Anaheim. The Ducks will welcome back Bobby Ryan to their lineup. Ryan completed his two game suspension for stomping on Jon Blum’s foot with his skate.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Follow Predlines on Twitter @Predlines