The Nashville Predators let a golden opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead back to Smashville slip through their fingers last night in a 5-3 Anaheim Duck win. The series is now tied at 1. The Predators blew a 2-0, 1st-period lead and a 3-2, 2nd period lead in the loss. For the first time in these playoffs, the Predators defense and Pekka Rinne looked average.
Nashville was in full control of the 1st period for most of the opening frame. Ryan Johansen scored on a breakaway set up by a great pass from Viktor Arvidsson to give the Preds a 1-0 lead at 4:18 of the period. Then just a little over 4 minutes later, while on the powerplay, Johansen dished the puck down low to James Neal who tucked it behind John Gibson into an open net for a 2-0 Nashville lead. Then with a little under two minutes to go, a mental lapse from Matt Irwin, lead to a turnover and then a penalty from Irwin. The Ducks would capitalize with exactly 1 minute to go in the period to cut the lead in half with a goal from Sami Vatanen.
Then the game turned completely early in the 2nd frame. The Ducks would score just 39 seconds in as Rickard Rakell’s no-look pass across the top of the crease would be deposited into the empty net by Jakob Silverberg, his 2nd of the series. Anaheim would control the play for most of the 2nd period. However, Viktor Arvidsson used his speed to go around the net and try a wrap around that Filip Forsberg would deposit into the net on the rebound for a 3-2 Preds lead. Then less than 3 minutes later at the 10:41 mark, Ondrej Kase would sneak one under Rinne to once again tie the game. Then with less than 3 minutes in the period, Rinne gave up a goal I am sure he would love to have back. Nick Ritchie whipped a wrist shot from the boards over Rinne’s head and into the net for the 4-3 lead.
Nashville would push hard in the 3rd period but to no avail. Gibson and the Ducks would hold them off and Antoine Vermette would score an empty net goal with 44 seconds to go in the game.
The Predators did not play well in this game and I am sure they would admit that. However, they come home having accomplished what they wanted, winning one in Anaheim. They now have the home ice advantage. They know they will have to play much better in Game 3.
A couple of quick notes. Ryan Johansen and the JOFA line stayed hot in the series. Johansen added a goal and an assist in this one, while Arvidsson added 2 assists and Forsberg scored for the second straight game. James Neal tied a franchise record in all-time playoff goals for the Predators. The goal ties him with Shea Weber and David Legwand.
Game 3 is tomorrow night in Nashville at 7 pm CT.
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