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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals– May 20

Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks– Game 5

The Nashville Predators are one win away from continuing to make franchise history and advancing to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final thanks to a 3-1 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Saturday night. 

Nashville’s Pontus Aberg scored the game winning goal in the 3rd period and Pekka Rinne made 32 saves on 33 shots faced for a .970 save percentage in the win. Anaheim goaltenders, John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier split time in goal, as Gibson left the game after the 1st period with a lower body injury. 

Gibson stopped all 10 shots he faced in the 1st period, while Bernier made 16 saves on 18 shots against for an .889 SV% in the final two periods of play.

The Predators take a 3-2 series lead back home to Bridgestone Arena for Game 6. Nashville can advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history with a win on Monday night.

After 20 minutes of play, the game was still tied, 0-0. Shots on goal were even, 10-10, and the Ducks were leading in hits, 15-13, as well as giveaways, 4-3. Nashville led in blocked shots, 7-6 and went 0/1 on the power play, while Anaheim went 0/2 on the man advantage in the 1st period.

Chris Wagner (2) kicked off the game’s first goal at 12:46 of the 2nd period to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Wagner promptly fired a shot on a rebound off of Rinne’s glove after Brandon Montour had initially threw the puck on goal. Montour (7) and Jakob Silfverberg (5) collected the assists on the goal.

Filip Forsberg took a penalty for hooking Sami Vatanen with six minutes remaining in the 2nd period. Anaheim failed to convert on the man advantage and took a penalty of their own when Josh Manson was sent to the box for cross checking Forsberg shortly after he was released from the sin bin.

Nashville was on the power play for just the second time of the night, trailing 1-0 on the scoreboard until Colin Wilson (2) was at the right place at the right time. With less than a minute remaining in the period (and almost 10 seconds left on the power play), 

P.K. Subban shot the puck from the point, only to have it blocked before it could reach the net. That’s when Colton Sissons freed the loose puck and found Wilson in the slot, who then threw the rubber biscuit on goal and beat Bernier to tie the game 1-1 at 19:19 of the 2nd period.

After 40 minutes of play, the Ducks led 23-21 in shots on goal, 13-11 in blocked shots, 26-19 in hits, 5-2 in takeaways and 10-7 in giveaways, but the scoreboard still read 1-1. Statistically speaking, Nashville was close, but not too close.

Scoring chance for scoring chance was matched by each team through the first 10 minutes of the 3rd period. The Predators caught Anaheim’s defense lagging behind a play as they broke out on a rush, whereby Aberg crashed the net and dove for a rebound. Aberg (1) shot the puck while diving, leaving Bernier with no time to recover and square up to the shot in desperation.

Aberg gave Nashville their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 11:01 of the 3rd period. Forsberg (6) and Mattias Ekholm (8) were credited with the assists. The goal was Aberg’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. He has one career regular season goal that he scored back in November, while also amassing 31 goals for the Milwaukee Admirals (t-3rd in the AHL) this season. 

Bernier was forced to vacate his net in the closing minute of the game for the extra attacker as the Ducks were desperate to defend their home ice advantage. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, as Nashville’s Austin Watson (2) stumbled upon a loose puck and fired it on goal from his just about the blue line in his own zone.

Watson’s empty net goal was unassisted at 19:12 of the 3rd period and put Nashville up by two goals.

The Predators finished the game 1/2 on the power play, while Anaheim failed to score on all four of their special teams advantages. The physical series has continued to claim more casualties, as Gibson indicated he would be good to go for Game 6, but is officially pending evaluation before Ducks head coach, Randy Carlyle makes a decision.

Anaheim led in shots on goal, 33-29, blocked shots 18-15, hits 32-25 and in giveaways 15-13 at the conclusion of Game 5 on Saturday night.

With the 3-1 victory, the Predators take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6— on home ice— Monday night in Nashville. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Fans looking to watch the game can tune to NBCSN in the United States, while Canadians can catch the action on CBC and/or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals– May 18

Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators– Game 4

Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks bursted the Nashville Predators undefeated at Bridgestone Arena this postseason bubble with a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game 4 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals.

In short, the series is now a best-of-three scenario as it is now tied, 2-2, heading back to Honda Center in Anaheim for Game 5.

Ducks goaltender, John Gibson made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage in the win, while Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced for a .919 SV% in the loss.

Rickard Rakell (7) opened the game’s scoring on a slap shot from outside the slot and just over the blue line after catching the Predators in the midst of a line change to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Cam Fowler (7) had the sole assist on Rakell’s goal.

After 20 minutes of play, Anaheim led 1-0 on the scoreboard and held Nashville to just two shots on goal in the 1st period. As a result, the Ducks set a franchise record for fewest shots against in a playoff period (2). The previous record was three back in the 1st period of Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Both Nashville and Anaheim went 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

The Ducks extended their lead to two goals when Nick Ritchie (4) used Roman Josi as a screen against Rinne, then toe dragged the puck out of Josi’s reach to snipe a wrist shot top shelf on the glove side. Nate Thompson (4) and Sami Vatanen (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 2-0 Anaheim.

Officials put away the whistles for the 2nd period, as no penalties were called, which would only provide for more scrutiny later in the game when several calls were made against the Ducks and a non-call that probably should’ve been a penalty against the Predators indirectly led to the game tying goal in the final minute of regulation.

After Nashville had an abysmal two shots on goal (compared to Anaheim’s 14 SOG) in the 1st period, the Predators picked up their offensive efforts in the 2nd period, outshooting the Ducks 18-12. Anaheim still led in total shots on goal, though, 26-20 after 40 minutes of play.

Trailing 2-0 at the start of the 3rd period, the Nashville Predators remained calm, as they had been there before this postseason, having trailed by the same score to the Blackhawks in the First Round before coming back and winning in regulation.

Anaheim could not convert on their final power play opportunity of the night about a quarter of the way into the 3rd period.

After being given two power play opportunities of their own about midway through the 3rd, the Predators had no luck on the man advantage, but had begun racking up the minutes of offensive zone time.

P.K. Subban (2) received a pass from Colin Wilson (2) and fired home a slap shot to cut the lead in half and make it a 2-1 game at 13:33 of the 3rd period. The already rambunctious fans in attendance at Bridgestone Arena only became louder as the Predators begun to smell a possible comeback. Viktor Arvidsson (7) had the secondary assist on Subban’s 2nd goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kevin Bieksa’s high sticking infraction was quickly followed up by Anaheim’s Josh Manson’s slashing minor penalty, resulting in a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:31 with 4:38 remaining in regulation for the Preds.

Anaheim’s penalty killing unit was successful at killing off both minor penalties before Nashville could tie the game.

With less than a minute in regulation, the Predators won an offensive zone face-off and fired a barrage of shots at Gibson.

Ryan Johansen appeared to get away with a cross check to the back of one of Anaheim’s skaters, before contributing on what would end up setting up the final goal of regulation

Filip Forsberg (7) tied the game, 2-2, with his followup in front of the goal, beating Gibson to the puck before he could freeze it. Arvidsson (8) and James Neal (2) collected the helpers on the game tying goal with 34.5 seconds to go in the 3rd period.

Forsberg now has four goals in four games thus far in the series.

Nashville was mounting a comeback riding the momentum of the final 13 and a half minutes of regulation. Shots on goal were even at 31-31 after 60 minutes of play. Nashville led in blocked shots 18-15 and in giveaways 10-9, while Anaheim led in hits 28-27 and takeaways 9-6 heading into the overtime intermission.

Game 4 became just the 26th playoff game of the 2017 postseason to require overtime (two games shy of the record— 28 overtime games— set in 1993).

A little past halfway into the overtime period, Perry (4) fired a shot in the direction of the goal as a hard charging teammate, Thompson, was crashing the goal. Instead of setting up a one-timer, the puck deflected off of Nashville defenseman Subban’s stick and past Rinne to secure the 3-2 victory for the Ducks.

Perry’s game winning goal was unassisted at 10:25 of overtime and tied the series 2-2.

Anaheim finished the game leading in shots on goal 37-34, blocked shots 20-19 and giveaways 12-10, while both teams were even in hits 30-30. Neither team scored a power play goal on Thursday night, as Nashville went 0/5 on the man advantage and Anaheim went 0/2.

Puck drop for Game 5 at Honda Center back in Anaheim is scheduled for a little after 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Viewers looking to watch the game in the United States can tune to NBC, while Canadian fans can catch the game on CBC and/or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round– May 10

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals– Game 7

By: Connor Keith

With a two-goal shutout over Washington at the Verizon Center, the Penguins have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row.

If statistics told the whole story (they don’t, much to my chagrin), the first period was only an appetizer of what to expect in the remainder of the first Game 7 of the night. Both teams committed one penalty, both penalty kills rose to the task. Pittsburgh blocked four shots, Washington three. The Penguins stole the puck four times and committed three giveaways, the Capitals made three steals and only two giveaways. Pittsburgh fired 10 shots on net, Washington nine – and all were saved by either First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury or Third Star Braden Holtby.

Things were still looking that way until the 8:49 mark of the second period when Second Star Bryan Rust (Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby) drew first blood. The play started when Ian Cole intercepted Matt Niskanen’s attempted clear at the far point to keep the puck from crossing the blue line. In the same motion he passed to his captain in the center of the offensive zone, who dished to Guentzel en route to the near side of the slot. Instead of firing on Holtby’s net, he slid a centering pass to his right wing that was more than capable of banging home a wrist shot top-shelf for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Once the scoreless draw was broken, the pressure was on Fleury for the remaining 31:11 of the game. As he’s proved so many other times this postseason, he was up to the task only a year removed from being relegated to the bench during the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run. In total, he saved all 29 shots he faced for his first shutout of the 2017 postseason. Included within those attempts was a flurry of action late in the second period.

To start, Alex Ovechkin had a beautiful look at leveling the game at one-all from his usual spot in the left face-off circle with 3:53remaining in the frame, but Fleury managed to get his stick and blocker between Ovechkin’s wrister and the back of his net at the last second to prevent the score from changing.

Fleury’s strong play continued 1:29 later when he fought off three separate shots in a wild scrum in his crease, but he was truly confirmed it was his day when Nicklas Backstrom’s offering from along the goal line with 73 seconds remaining before the second intermission not only bounced off his right skate, but also off the far post and out of harm’s way.

If the Pens have learned anything in these playoffs, it’s that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In the opening five minutes of the third period, Pittsburgh outshot the Capitals seven-to-one. That attack found its reward 4:14 into the frame when Patric Hornqvist (Justin Schultz) sneaked a wrister between Nate Schmidt’s legs and over Holtby’s glove to set the score at 2-0.

While only an insurance goal, it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Verizon Center crowd. The crowds’ mood significantly soured following Hornqvist’s marker as it realized the Capitals would fall for the ninth time in 10 matchups against Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh will host the Senators for Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at PPG Paints Arena. That series is scheduled to start on Saturday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. The contest will be televised on NBC in the USA and CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks– Game 7

By: Nick Lanciani

Entering Wednesday night, the Anaheim Ducks had lost four consecutive Game 7s at Honda Center. Entering Thursday morning, they’re moving on to the 2017 Western Conference Finals after defeating the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on home ice thanks to Nick Ritchie’s early 3rd period game winning goal.

Ducks goalie, John Gibson made 23 saves on 24 shots against in just his 2nd career Game 7 appearance for a .958 save percentage en route to the win, while Edmonton goaltender, Cam Talbot made his first Game 7 appearance, stopping 28 saves on 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in the loss.

For just the fourth time in franchise history, Anaheim will contend for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, having appeared in the Western Conference Finals in 2003, 2007 and 2015 before advancing to the 2017 edition of the Western Conference Finals against the Nashville Predators. 

Drake Caggiula (3) kicked off scoring in Game 7 with his unassisted redirection that beat Gibson just 3:31 into the 1st period to give the Oilers a 1-0 lead.

Despite trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes of play, the Ducks were not ready to fold on home ice in yet another Game 7.

Andrew Cogliano (1) tied the game, 1-1, on a backhand shot that slid past a sprawling Cam Talbot after a series of desperation saves almost midway through the 2nd period. Cogliano’s first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs was assisted by Ryan Kesler (6) and Brandon Montour (5) at 8:55 of the 2nd.

With a close battle carrying over into the 3rd period, the Ducks came out flying early in effort to combat the younger, faster skating Edmonton offense that had pestered teams all season long by playing a game that only got better as the minutes passed.

After swapping scoring chances, Anaheim had strong attacking zone possession, firing pucks on Talbot, generating rebounds and odd caroms off the boards behind the goal.

Ritchie (2) collected a loose puck and fired a blocker side shot that clipped Talbot underneath the shoulder and fluttered into the twine to give the Ducks their first lead of the night. Sami Vatanen (1) and Corey Perry (7) collected the helpers on Ritchie’s goal, which made it 2-1 Anaheim, just 3:21 into the 3rd period.

Despite a late surge by the Oilers around two minutes to go in regulation, the Ducks held off on all of Edmonton’s advances with the Oilers having pulled Talbot for an extra skater.

As time expired, Anaheim head coach, Randy Carlyle improved to 2-2 in four career Game 7 appearances, while Edmonton head coach, Todd McLellan fell to 1-3 overall in Game 7s.

With Wednesday night’s 2-1 win, Anaheim has only allowed one goal in their three Game 7 victories in franchise history, having previously defeated Phoenix 3-0 in the 1997 Western Conference Quarterfinals and Calgary 3-0 in the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Anaheim plays host to the Nashville on Friday night at Honda Center for Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 9 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can watch the game on NBCSN, while Canadians can tune to CBC or TVA Sports for coverage.

The Ducks lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in their most recent trip to the Western Conference Finals (2015) but advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in both 2003 and 2007. 

The Predators will make their Western Conference Finals debut for the first time in franchise history.

Prince Nets 2, Bishop Chased, Islanders Win 5-3 in Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

New York Islanders LogoThe New York Islanders defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night.

Thomas Greiss made 33 saves on 36 shots against for a .917 SV% in the win, while Ben Bishop made 9 saves on 13 shots faced and was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy with a .692 SV% on the night. Vasilevskiy made 8 saves on 8 shots faced in 29:40 TOI in the loss.

Josh Bailey was out of the lineup for the Islanders on Wednesday night after leaving Game 6 versus the Florida Panthers with an upper body injury. With Bailey out, Ryan Strome was inserted into the lineup for New York.

Ondrej Palat opened up the scoring in the first period for Tampa a little over three minutes into the opening frame. Palat’s goal was his 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Jonathan Drouin (5) and Vladislav Namestnikov (1) and gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

Travis Hamonic answered back in a hurry at 5:44 of the first period with a goal of his own for New York. Hamonic’s first goal of the postseason was assisted by Alan Quine (3) and John Tavares (5) and tied the game at 1 for the Islanders.

Both teams settled into a little rhythm after swapping goals early in the first. Lightning forward, Tyler Johnson received a minor penalty for hooking New York forward, Cal Clutterbuck, at 9:06 of the first period. The Islanders were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night. They subsequently failed on their next power play opportunity when Alex Killorn went to the box for kneeing Calvin de Haan. Actually, Killorn’s penalty was served by Jonathan Drouin, but anyway…

At 17:28 of the first period, Shane Prince potted one at the back of the net. Ryan Strome (2) and Brock Nelson (3) assisted on Prince’s 2nd goal of the postseaon. A little more than two minutes later, Prince, Strome and Nelson connected for another Islanders goal to give New York a 3-1 lead. The goal was Prince’s second goal of the game and his 3rd of the postseason. Strome picked up his 3rd assist of the playoffs and Nelson picked up his 4th assist of the postseason.

After twenty minutes of play, the Islanders were leading 3-1 and led in shots on goal (12-8), faceoff wins (10-9) and takeaways (3-2). The Lightning led in hits (18-12), giveaways (5-3) and blocked shots (6-3). New York went 0/2 on the power play, while Tampa had yet to see time on the power play entering the first intermission.

Marek Zidlicky served a minor penalty for interference 2:21 into the 2nd period, which gave Tampa their first power play of the night. The Lightning were unsuccessful on the man advantage.

Unknown-1Jonathan Marchessault hooked John Tavares at 8:12 of the 2nd period, resulting in an Islanders power play.

47 seconds into the man advantage Tavares made the Lightning pay with his 6th goal of the 2016 playoffs on the power play at 8:59 of the 2nd. Kyle Okposo (6) and Frans Nielsen (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 4-1, Islanders.

Tampa Bay head coach, Jon Cooper, replaced his starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, with Andrei Vasilevskiy after the Tavares power play goal.

Ryan Callahan took a holding penalty with under three minutes left in the second period. New York was unable to convert on the ensuing power play. After forty minutes of play, the Islanders had a commanding 4-1 lead over the Lightning, despite trailing in shots on goal (19-17), hits (22-19) and blocked shots (8-6).

Nikita Kucherov kicked things off in the third period for the Lightning with his 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:41 of the period. Kucherov’s goal was assisted by Mathieu Carle (2) and Victor Hedman (2) and cut the Islanders lead to two.

The final penalty of the night was called at 15:20 of the 3rd period, when Casey Cizikas sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor. Eight seconds after the conclusion of the power play, Tampa scored to trail by one. The goal was Valtteri Filppula’s first of the playoffs and was assisted by Killorn (3) and Jason Garrison (3) at 17:28 of the period.

With 1:39 to go in regulation, Vasilevskiy deserted the net for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Cal Clutterbuck notched one in the empty net at 19:05 of the third. Cizikas (1) and de Haan (2) picked up the assists on Clutterbuck’s first goal of the postseason and ensured that the Islanders would pick up the 5-3 victory in Game 1.

Tampa led in shots on goal (36-22), hits (33-29) and giveaways (13-7) at the end of the game, while New York led in faceoff wins (32-21), takeaways (4-2) and blocked shots (15-10). The Islanders were 1/4 on the power play on the night while the Lightning were 0/2.

The Isles won two out of the three regular season games against the Bolts and took Game 1 convincingly, despite being outworked in the final twenty minutes. More rest proved to be sloppy for the Lightning out of the gate, however more work caught up to New York by the end of sixty minutes of play.

For the first time since 1983 two playoffs occurred on the same day, with the Tampa Bay vs. New York game opening the Second Round on Wednesday night, while the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators closed out their First Round series in Game 7 at the Honda Center.

The Lightning play host to the Islanders once again for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST on home ice at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The game can be seen on NBC in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. The Islanders lead the series 1-0 with their 5-3 victory on Wednesday night.

Predators Force First Game 7 in Franchise History

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownPekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators forced a Game 7 with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. Rinne stopped 26 shots on 27 shots faced for a .963 SV% en route to the win, while Frederik Andersen made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the Anaheim loss.

Entering Monday night, Nashville had a 0-5 record in all-time Game 6 situations where they were facing elimination. Craig Smith returned to the lineup for the Predators, but not without a price in the eyes of the hockey gods, as Cody Bass left the game after the first period and did not return for the night with an injury.

After a scoreless first period, in which the Predators and the Ducks swapped power play opportunities only three minutes into the game, Nashville was leading 8-7 in shots on goal. The Preds were also leading in hits (12-11), giveaways (3-1), takeaways (3-2) and blocked shots (5-2), while Anaheim led in faceoff wins (10-7) after twenty minutes of play.

Mattias Ekholm scored the game’s first goal at 8:10 of the second period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. The goal was Ekholm’s 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Calle Jarnkrok (1) and Ryan Ellis (2). Almost ten minutes later, James Neal put the Predators up by two with his 2nd goal of the series, assisted by Ryan Johansen (2) at 17:45 of the period.

Ekholm then served a minor penalty for holding Anaheim skater, Hampus Lindholm, at 19:17 of the 2nd. The Ducks forced their way into the front of the net during the ensuing power play opportunity and Ryan Kesler picked up a rebound before shoving it home for his 3rd goal of the postseason, thereby cutting Nashville’s lead in half on the man advantage. Kesler’s goal was assisted by Corey Perry (4) and Cam Fowler (2) at 19:46 of the 2nd period.

After forty minutes of play, the Predators led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 20-18 in shots on goal. Nashville also led in giveaways (3-2) and blocked shots (12-6), while the Ducks led in hits (23-20) and faceoff wins (19-17). Both teams had 4 takeaways after two frames and Anaheim was 1/2 on the power play, while Nashville was 0/1.

UnknownThe third period saw a 9-6 shots on goal advantage in favor of Anaheim, but the Ducks last ditched effort was matched by the cool, calm and collected goaltending by Rinne.

With ten seconds left in regulation, Shea Weber fired the puck down the frozen river and into the empty net that had been vacated by Andersen with about 90 seconds to go in the period. Weber’s goal, his 2nd of the postseason, gave he Predators a 3-1 lead and was his 12th career playoff goal. As well, James Neal picked up an assist on the empty net goal.

Weber is now one goal shy of tying David Legwand’s franchise record of 13 career playoff goals.

Nashville finished the night leading in hits (30-25), giveaways (8-5) and blocked shots (21-11), while Anaheim finished the night leading in faceoff wins (28-26) and takeaways (5-4). With the win, the Predators tied the series at 3-3, thereby forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday night at 10:00 PM EST at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It will be the first Game 7 in franchise history for the Predators and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

In rare NHL form, Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicks off on Wednesday night before Round One will have even concluded, as the Tampa Bay Lightning square off with the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena.

Ducks Rout Predators 4-1, Series Tied 2-2

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe Anaheim Ducks defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 on road ice at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday night. Frederik Andersen made 30 saves on 31 shots faced for a .968 SV% in the victory, while Pekka Rinner made 21 saves on 25 shots against for a .840 SV% in the loss.

Sixty-two seconds into the first period, Ryan Getzlaf sent one behind Rinne to give Anaheim a 1-0 lead. Getzlaf’s 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was assisted by David Perron (1) and Kevin Bieksa (1) and was just the Ducks 2nd shot of the night.

Shea Weber was guilty of the game’s first penalty when he sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game minor penalty at 7:41 of the first period. The Ducks were unable to convert on the man advantage and David Perron was called for a tripping minor himself at 8:15 of the period. Nashville was unable to capitalize on their short power play while Perron was still in box and failed to convert on another power play before the end of the 1st when Anaheim defenseman, Cam Fowler was sent to the box for delay of game.

After twenty minutes of play, both teams had seven shots on goal and the Ducks were leading 1-0 on the scoreboard as well as in hits (14-13), takeaways (2-1) and blocked shots (11-0). The Predators were leading in faceoff wins (11-6) and giveaways (3-0).

Twenty-six seconds into the second period, Ryan Garbutt tripped up Predators star, Filip Forsberg, giving Nashville a power play. Nashville was unable to utilize the man advantage to their advantage.

UnknownMike Fisher tied the game at 1 at 11:26 of the 2nd period with his goal of the series, assisted by Colin Wilson (2) and Shea Weber (1).

Colton Sissons took a trip to the sin bin at 12:45 of the second period for interference, but was followed up by David Perron canceling Anaheim’s power play a mere five seconds later after high sticking Fisher. Simon Despres and Viktor Arvidsson took a tripping call and an unsportsmanlike minor respectively at 15:55 of the 2nd period.

Nate Thompson received a pass from Rickard Rakell and scored the eventual game winning goal at 17:04 of the second period. Sami Vatanen was credited with the secondary assist. Almost two minutes later, Jamie McGinn made it 3-1 Anaheim with a goal that was assisted by Chris Stewart.

At the end of two periods the Ducks led the Predators 3-1 on the scoreboard and trailed 23-19 in shots on goal.

After failing to capitalize on two power play opportunities in the first half of the third period, Nashville found themselves behind the eight ball if there was any hope for a comeback on home ice in Game 4. At 16:52 of the third period, Andrew Cogliano put the game away for the Ducks with a goal that put Anaheim ahead 4-1. Cogliano’s goal— his 2nd of the playoffs— was assisted by Jakob Silfverberg.

The Ducks were victorious after sixty minutes of play, despite trailing in many statistics. The Predators lost 4-1, but led in shots on goal (31-25), hits (41-27), faceoff wins (31-22) and giveaways (8-3) in Game 4, while Anaheim led in takeaways (7-3) and blocked shots (25-12). Neither team was successful on the power play, with the Ducks having gone 0/5 and the Preds having gone 0/6 on Thursday night.

With the series now tied 2-2, the rest of the best-of-7 series now essentially shifts to a best two-out-of-three scenario. Game 5 is scheduled for Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California with more information about the time of puck drop and what channel it will be broadcasted on to be provided by the NHL.

Predators Stun Heavily Favored Ducks in Game 1 at Honda Center

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.

UnknownJames 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).

UnknownNashville 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.

TRADE: Capitals acquire Weber from Sabres

By: Nick Lanciani

On Tuesday evening the Washington Capitals acquired pending UFA defenseman Mike Weber from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a third round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Washington Capitals LogoWeber is a 28-year old stay-at-home defenseman who had one goal and four assists in 35 games with Buffalo this season. He also had 32 penalty minutes as a Sabre in that same timespan.

Since he entered the NHL in the 2007-2008 season with the Sabres, Weber ranked first among Buffalo skaters in hits (917) and blocked shots (666). The product of the second round (57th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft was drafted by the Sabres and had spent his entire career with the organization until this trade.

Buffalo Sabres LogoThe 6’2″, 217-pound, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native served as an alternate captain for Buffalo during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, playing in a career high 68 games during the 2013-2014 season.

Weber established a career high in goals (4), assists (13) and points (17) in the 2010-2011 season. In 341 career NHL games with the Sabres, Weber registered 9-44-53 totals and 409 penalty minutes.

He has one assist in seven career NHL playoff games going all the way back to Buffalo’s first round exit to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Sabres retained 50% of Weber’s remaining salary.

Washington hosts the Montreal Canadiens on home ice on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center while Buffalo will take on the Anaheim Ducks on the road at the Honda Center. Weber is expected to join his new team and may be in the lineup as early as Wednesday’s night’s matchup with the Habs.

Triplets Dominate, Bolts Even Series in Game 2

2015 Stanley Cup Final Game 2 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-1Everyone chipped in en route to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, so it seems.

Despite Tampa’s harsh ticket policy, Amalie Arena had a noticeably red hue contrasting all the Lightning diehards in blue, but it was the home fans that went home happily assured of a victory in the Stanley Cup Final that evened the series 1-1 and ensures at least one more game at home.

Jason Garrison’s game winning power play goal at 8:49 of the 3rd period proved to be enough to give Andrei Vasilevskiy his first career playoff win. That’s right; Vasilevskiy was the winning goaltender from Saturday night. Tampa’s Ben Bishop was in and out of the action briefly in the 3rd period, ultimately being unable to return, leading many to wonder if he had simply needed a bathroom break. Head coach, Jon Cooper, confirmed after the game that the need for a restroom was not the case and wouldn’t delve further into the situation.

Vasilevskiy made 5 saves on 5 shots on goal in 9:13 time on ice, while Bishop made 21 saves in 24 shots against in 50:33 playing time. Chicago’s Corey Crawford made 20 saves on 24 shots against in the loss.

Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images
Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

Cooper inserted the youthful Jonathan Drouin into the Lightning’s lineup for the first time since Game 4 against Montreal in Round 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Drouin in, Nikita Nesterov became a healthy scratch.

The 1st period began with a frantic pace and high tempo hockey. The Lightning swapped opportunity for opportunity with the Blackhawks but remained scoreless in the first ten minutes of the game.

At 12:56, Cedric Paquette finally broke the ice and scored the games first goal. Paquette’s 2nd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman.

Hedman went on to have a superb rest of the game, while Callahan continued to be a playmaker the rest of the night. A little after the eighteen minute mark of the opening frame, Blackhawks defenseman, Johnny Oduya took a minor penalty for tripping. The Lightning were unable to capitalize on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Shots on goal were relatively even heading into the first intermission with Tampa holding a slight advantage, 12-11.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A string of events sent the game into frenzy early into the 2nd period. First, Andrew Shaw netted his 5th of the playoffs with help from Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins at 3:04 of the 2nd period.

About a minute later Tampa forward, Alex Killorn, was called for hooking former Lightning star, Brad Richards, giving Chicago their first power play opportunity of the night.

Teuvo Teravainen quickly made Killorn and the Lightning pay for their undisciplined effort and pocketed a power play goal at 5:20 of the 2nd period. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp set up Teravainen’s 4th goal of the playoffs and gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the night.

It wasn’t 2-1 Chicago for very long, however.

Nikita Kucherov tied things up at two goals apiece with his 10th goal of the 2015 playoffs at 6:52 of the period with help from Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn. Both teams were shooting the lights out of Amalie Arena in the first half of the 2nd period, compared to the first 20 minutes of the game. Tampa was leading shots on goal 18-15 by the midpoint of the period, just after Coburn took a penalty for holding.

For once, however, things cooled off in the 2nd period. Chicago wasn’t able to score on the power play and for a few minutes both teams settled in.

Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

At 13:58 of the 2nd period, Tyler Johnson scored his first goal since Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.

Johnson’s 13th goal of the playoffs set a franchise record for the Lightning for the most goals in a single postseason. Kucherov was once again on the scoresheet with the lone assist on the goal.

Tampa was leading 3-2 heading into the 2nd intermission and led shots on goal, 22-19, and hits, 28-18. Chicago was dominating faceoff wins, 23-14, and blocked shots, 9-6.

The 3rd period began with a quick surge for Chicago. A little over three and a half minutes into the period, Brent Seabrook blasted one past Bishop for his 7th of the playoffs. Jonathan Toews and Johnny Oduya picked up the assists on Seabrook’s tying goal, but the game wouldn’t remain knotted at 3-3 for too long.

Unknown-2It had appeared as though Antoine Vermette might have interfered with Lightning goaltender, Ben Bishop, however the contact was ruled as incidental and the goal was confirmed.

Bishop appeared fine, but may have suffered some sort of an injury on the play that bugged him for the remainder of the period. Either that, or he had pulled something on a save earlier in the game. Whatever it was, ultimately forced him out of the game. Bishop was replaced by twenty year-old backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, with less than eight minutes to go in regulation.

Patrick Sharp took a couple of penalties in a row, one at 4:59 of the period for slashing and another at 7:17 for high sticking.

It was on the latter power play opportunity that Tampa exploited the man advantage with a power play goal from Jason Garrison at 8:49 of the 3rd period. Garrison’s goal was his 2nd of the playoffs and was assisted by Hedman and Callahan. Shots on goal were even at 24 shots apiece.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Lightning fans were unmoved at the threat of whatever was plaguing Bishop, but certainly had their share of a heart attack when Andrej Sustr sent the puck straight out of play and thus received a delay of game penalty with under seven minutes to go in regulation.

But the Bolts defended their one goal lead and held the Blackhawks to one shot on goal on Chicago’s power play. With about two minutes left in the game, Corey Crawford vacated his goal for an extra attacker as the Blackhawks looked to tie the game.

Toews, who had nearly stunned the Honda Center in Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals after scoring two late third period goals to force the Anaheim Ducks into overtime- only to lose anyway 45 seconds into overtime- was prowling to do nearly the same thing to the Lightning.

His chance was denied by Vasilevskiy and the Blackhawks ran out of time. Tampa had won the game 4-3 in regulation.

The Blackhawks finished the game with 29 shots on goal compared to the Lightning’s 24 shots on goal. Chicago also dominated faceoff wins, 35-19, and topped off blocked shots, 12-9. Tampa led in hits, 33-28. Both teams finished the night 1 for 3 on the power play.

The Lightning improved to 6-1 when leading after the 1st period in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vasilevskiy made a mark on the history books earning his first career playoff win in just his 3rd appearance, while making the fewest saves made (5) in a Stanley Cup Final game, en route to winning, since shots on goal became an official stat in 1967.

Vasilevskiy also became the first goalie since 1928, to win a Stanley Cup Final game in a relief appearance.

Both games this year in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final have been comeback wins. In 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Game 1 to the Calgary Flames, but won Game 2 and went on to win the Cup in seven games. And since 2004, only one other series has been tied 1-1 (the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks).

This will be the 16th straight Stanley Cup Final to not be swept by either team. The last team to sweep in the Final was the 1998 Detroit Red Wings, who defeated the Washington Capitals in four games to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Detroit was also the last team to repeat as champions having won in 1997 and 1998.

Game 3 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will be Monday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM EST with coverage on NBC in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Blackhawks Win 5-2, Force Game 7 in Anaheim

2015 Western Conference Finals Game 6 Recap

By: Nick Lanciani

Unknown-2In front of 22,089 fans at the United Center on Wednesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks were able to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 on Saturday night in Anaheim with a 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Patrick Kane’s 10th goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the game winning goal in the Blackhawks winning effort as Corey Crawford made 30 saves on 32 shots against to pick up the win.

Anaheim’s, Frederik Andersen, made 18 saves on 22 shots faced in the loss. Chicago’s Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith had impressive efforts as well, with Shaw scoring two goals and Keith earning three assists on the night.

A scoreless first period ended with 10 shots on goal for Anaheim and 6 shots on goal for Chicago. The Blackhawks also dominated faceoff wins 15-4, while the Ducks led hits 18-15 and blocked shots 13-5. Both teams went 0/1 on the power play as Anaheim couldn’t capitalize on a too many men bench minor against the Blackhawks, 1:59 into the period, and Chicago couldn’t score on their power play opportunity as a result of Corey Perry’s hooking penalty at 7:06 of the 1st period.

At 8:23 of the 2nd period Brandon Saad raced down the ice on a breakaway and landed a shot past Andersen and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead. The goal was Saad’s 5th of the playoffs and was assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. A little over two minutes later, Chicago went ahead 2-0 on a goal from Marian Hossa with help from Keith and Brad Richards. Finally, at 12:08 of the 2nd period, Kane picked up his 10th goal of the postseason with Keith earning his 3rd assist of the night, cementing a 3-0 Blackhawks lead a little past halfway into the period.

UnknownBrad Richards took a hooking penalty at 14:08 of the 2nd period, resulting in a Ducks power play. Anaheim stopped some of the bleeding with a power play goal from Patrick Maroon via crafty work by Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. For now, at least, the score was 3-1 and the Ducks successfully displayed a sign of life. Ryan Kesler gave Chicago their third and final power play opportunity of the night after tripping goaltender, Corey Crawford, setting the standard for a little more contact with both goalies in the 3rd period.

Shots on goal were deadlocked at 19-19 and hits were tied, 30-30, by the second intermission. Anaheim led blocked shots 18-8 and were 1 for 2 on the power play, while Chicago continued to dominate faceoff wins, 29-11, and were 0 for 3 on the man advantage.

Andrew Shaw celebrates one of his third period goals in Game 6 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals in Chicago. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Andrew Shaw celebrates one of his third period goals in Game 6 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals in Chicago. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The 3rd period got off to a quick start for the Ducks, showing signs of a potentially thrilling comeback, as Clayton Stoner notched his 1st goal of the playoffs at 1:57 of the period. Nate Thompson and Jakob Silfverberg were credited assists on Stoner’s goal. Silfverberg, in fact, clipped Crawford’s glove as he was skating in front of the net, causing some to argue for goaltender interference, but the fact of the matter was that 1) Silfverberg was well out of the crease 2) knew where Crawford was in relation to where he was heading and 3) Crawford might have stuck his glove hand out to bat Silfverberg away, thus hampering his own chances at being fully able to make a save.

At least, those might have been a few things that crossed the referee’s mind in not making a call and reversing the goal on the ice.

Kesler and Silfverberg’s bumps into the goalie weren’t the only ones in the game. Nearly a minute and a half after Stoner’s goal, Chicago’s Andrew Desjardins was sent to the box for goaltender interference in a clear disregard for the established “don’t touch the goalie” rule after knocking down Frederik Andersen in the crease, perhaps in retaliation for the Ducks called and uncalled run ins with Crawford.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The pace of the game settled in until there was about three and a half minutes to go, when the intensity really picked up as Anaheim desperately tried for a tying goal. Instead, Desjardins had a quick breakout with Andrew Shaw, who began to put away the hopes of a Ducks comeback in Game 6 with his 3rd goal of the playoffs at 16:28 of the period.

The Blackhawks had amassed 22 shots on goal, seven fewer than the Ducks, and yet had a 4-2 lead and were closer to a Game 7 than the Ducks were to a comeback. It wasn’t long before Anaheim was outshooting Chicago 31-22 and had an offensive zone faceoff with Andersen already pulled and 1:05 remaining in the game.

At 19:11, Shaw put away an empty netter for his 2nd goal of the night, assisted by Desjardins, and gave the Blackhawks a 5-2 lead. The Ducks ended the night with 32 shots on goal and Chicago wrapped up the game with 23 shots on net. Anaheim continued to display a much more physical game, leading in hits, 43-38- although that usually means that the more physical team spent less time with the puck.

Chicago amassed 33 faceoff wins in the game, compared to Anaheim’s 17 faceoff wins, and reduced the differential in blocked shots to 4, with Anaheim leading 23-19. Anaheim finished the night 1 for 3 on the power play, while the Blackhawks were 0 for 3 on the night.

Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With the 5-2 win at home, the Chicago Blackhawks tied the series 3-3, sending the Western Conference Finals to a Game 7 on Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Puck drop is scheduled for 8 PM on NBC.

The winner will not only be the Western Conference champion, but will have the advantage of knowing who they will face in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, as the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning battle in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

This year marks the first time since 2000, that both conference finals have gone all the way to Game 7’s to determine the Stanley Cup Finalists. Fifteen years ago, the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers to represent the Eastern Conference, while the Dallas Stars topped the Colorado Avalanche to represent the Western Conference.