By: Nick Lanciani
Pekka Rinne, and the usual suspects for the Nashville Predators when it comes time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, stunned the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of their series, emerging victorious on road ice, 3-2. Rinne made 27 saves on 29 shots against for a .931 SV% while picking up the win, as Anaheim’s goaltender, John Gibson made 30 saves on 33 shots against for a .909 SV% in the loss.
Gibson had appeared in four Stanley Cup Playoff games heading into Friday night at the Honda Center, having gone 2-2 with a 2.70 GAA, and entered the night as the regular season’s tied-for-2nd best goaltender in goals-against-average with St. Louis Blues goalie, Brian Elliot, with a 2.07 GAA behind only Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, Ben Bishop’s 2.06 GAA.
James Neal started the scoring for Nashville 35 seconds into the first period and gave the Predators a 1-0 lead with some help from Ryan Johansen.
The Predators and Ducks then swapped minor penalties about four minutes apart nearly seven minutes and eleven minutes into the opening frame, with Nashville forward, Mike Ribero, being sent to the box for hooking at 7:08 and Anaheim defenseman, Simon Despres, sent to the sin bin for high sticking at 11:24 of the first period. Neither team was successful on their first power play opportunities of the night.
At 16:15 of the first period, Nashville’s Anthony Bitetto was called for holding the stick of Ducks forward, Nate Thompson, giving Anaheim a power play. Less than 40 seconds later, the Ducks went on a two-man advantage with star defenseman, Shea Weber, going to the box for cross checking David Perron.
Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf capitalized on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play with his first playoff goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs assisted by Cam Fowler and Corey Perry at 17:39 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Shots on goal were even at 12-12 after the first twenty minutes of play and the Ducks were leading in hits (16-12), faceoffs (17-9) and giveaways (7-2), while the Predators led in takeaways (1-0) and blocked shots (8-4).
The second period started with another quick goal, however, it was scored this time Anaheim Ducks forward, Ryan Kesler, to give the Ducks their first lead of the night at 2-1, 48 seconds into the 2nd. Kesler’s goal was assisted by Andrew Cogliano (1) and Hampus Lindholm (1).
Nashville responded to Anaheim’s goal with a goal from Colin Wilson at 7:55 of the 2nd period, with help from Ryan Ellis (1) and Roman Josi (1) to tie the game, 2-2.
Both teams continued to swap chances as the rest of the second period went on and after forty minutes of play the Predators were leadings in shots on goal 25-20, takeaways (3-1) and blocked shots (12-11). Anaheim, on the other hand, led in faceoffs (26-17) and giveaways (12-6) after forty. Both teams had 27 hits aside.
Twenty-five seconds past halfway in the third period, Filip Forsberg shot the puck towards Gibson and it appeared to have deflected off of Anaheim’s Shea Theodore and wound up behind Gibson. Forsberg’s fluke goal proved to be the game winner, as the Ducks could not answer the Predators tally, despite trailing 3-2 with almost half a period left in regulation.
Anaheim used their timeout with 1:51 remaining in the game and had pulled their goaltender, but it was to no avail. Nashville kept the puck out of their zone and forced the Ducks to recover and retreat.
After sixty minutes of play, the Nashville Predators had won 3-2 and took a 1-0 series lead on the home ice advantage, Anaheim Ducks. The Preds ended the game with 33 shots on goal compared to the Ducks 29. Nashville also led in hits (33-31) and blocked shots (20-17), while Anaheim dominated the faceoff dot (42-27), giveaways (20-11) and went 1/4 on the power play. The Predators failed to convert on all three of their power play opportunities and tied the Ducks in takeaways (5-5).
This is just the 2nd time that the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators have met in a Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup. The previous series between these two teams was back in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, where Nashville went on to win the series in six games (4-2). That same series was the first playoff series win in the Predators franchise history, before succumbing to the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals.
Game 2 of this year’s 2016 Western Conference Quarterfinal between Anaheim and Nashville is slated for Sunday at 10:30 PM EST on NBCSN, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, before swinging to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for Game 3 on Tuesday.