The Nashville Predators swept the first two games of the series in Anaheim and return to Smashville with a 2-0 series lead.
This is the first time in their history that the Nashville Predators have begun a series on top by winning the first two games, both by a 3-2 score. Bridgestone Arena should be rocking in Gold on Tuesday and Thursday and the Preds could make another move toward ending this series early.
The Anaheim Ducks came out on fire in the first 10 minutes of last nights game and Pekka Rinne made several important stops of great Anaheim chances. The Preds looked back on their heels and when Andrew Cogliano made it 1-0 Ducks when he scored on a breakaway in the 14th minute it looked a little tough for the Preds.
It was at that point that their entire demeanor changed and they started forcing things the other way. They caught up in shots and had several chances. When Colin Wilson passed over to Mattias Ekholm in front of the net and he roofed it in the final minute of the first period, everything had changed. The Preds had weathered the storm and were tied 1-1.
From there, it felt as if Nashville was in control of the game for the rest of the night. And the Ducks were a little out of control. They continued to try and goad the Predators into taking penalties with rough stuff after the whistle and questionable practices on the ice.
The Predators would man up and back off and let the Ducks take their dumb penalties. It seemed as if Ducks star Corey Perry was going to have to start paying rent in the Penalty Box, taking successive penalties. In the end, at the end of the second period it cost them when Shea Weber had three consecutive slap shot blasts on the Power Play and the final one found the net.
Craig Smith also chipped in a goal on perfect feed in the slot from Filip Forsberg and Anaheim drew within one with less than three minutes left but the Preds were in control, only allowing five shots in the final period.
Some takeaways from the game and the series:
Coach Laviolette Knows the Playoffs – Lavy seemed to have his team playing just the way they needed to last night. They were extremely physical but smart about it. In the end the Preds had four penalty minutes to the Ducks 12. It’s hard to score when you are in the box.
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The Predators are playing a nice mixture of offense and defense, perfect for playoff hockey. Laviolette said during the six day layoff before the series he instituted some things on Special Teams and it has shown with the Nashville Predators outplaying the Ducks vaunted Special Teams.
Pekka Being Pekka – Going into the playoffs, everyone knew that the Predators could only go as far as Pekka Rinne could take them. If he plays like he has the first two games, they can go a long way.
He was very good in the first game and even better last night. He made several close range stops and other than a breakaway by Cogliano and a redirect off Roman Josi‘s skate, he was in complete control
Second Defensive Pairing – There are always accolades for the Predators defense but in the first two games, the tandem of Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm really shined. There is not another team in the playoffs that has anything like those two as a second pairing.
Ellis virtually won game one as we pointed out here, and last night it was Ekholm’s turn when he had a pretty goal from a spot that most teams defensemen would never even venture in. Both have played fantastic on both ends of the ice and could be the difference.
Predators Have a Swagger – You could just see the Predators confidence and the way they didn’t back down from the Ducks but didn’t let them push the Preds into penalties. They act like they expect to win.
The Predators have never had forwards like Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Ryan Johansen before. They are always able to score and it takes so much pressure off the rest of the team. This team believe in itself and that could take them a long way in the playoffs.
The Predators come back to Nashville now and we need to make sure that this town is covered in Gold. Wear it to work or school, fly it proudly because this town has a team with the makings of a champion.