The Nashville Predators fought back from deficits twice before yielding three goals early in the third period to lose to the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 at the Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night in game four of the Western Conference first round series that is now tied 2-2.
The Predators never seemed to hit stride right for the start of the game when they gave up two goals 33 seconds apart starting at the 4:41 mark of the of the opening period to Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu.
Nashville came back with a goal from Patrick Hornqvist before the period was over to keep the game close. Joel Ward scored on a tip play early in the second to knot the game at 2-2.
Preds killer Teemu Selanne scored at the 11:41 mark in the second to retake the lead for the Ducks. The Predators made their second comeback at 14:15 when Matt Halischuk took a pass from Kevin Klein from behind the net to tie the game 3-3.
The third period was a complete collapse for the Predators that had been shaky the whole evening. In a seven minute span at the start of the third period, the Ducks got goals from Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Brandon McMillan to send the Predators into a dive that they would not be able to survive.
Pekka Rinne was pulled after the final goal to get a little bit of rest according to Barry Trotz. Anders Lindback came in to play 13:14 minutes in his first Stanley Cup playoff game. Rinne allowed six goals on 29 shots in the loss. Ray Emery stopped 19 of 22 Predator shots in route to the victory.
Rinne was realistic after the loss, “Going into the third, we still had a great chance to bring this game home, but personally and as a team we have to be better.”
Ryan Suter admitted that it was a poor showing.”We didn’t play the way we are capable of playing. They got a couple of goals early on us. We just never really had it tonight. We’ve got to come tomorrow, be ready for practice, and get ready for the next game.”
Barry Trotz was much more critical, “All game I thought we were just making major blunders – poor decisions. I don’t think our defense corps played very well at all tonight. Defense is a five man responsibility.”
“I thought that we didn’t go back hard to get pucks and we were making poor decisions. 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.”
Long term, a bigger loss may be with an “upper body” injury to Martin Erat that came from a clean shoulder to shoulder hit from Jarkko Ruutu four minutes in to the second stanza. There was no prognosis after the game for a return.
Jordin Tootoo received a misconduct penalty well as a game misconduct with 1:48 left on the clock as tensions flared when the game was out of reach.
The Predators will practiced on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Centennial Sportsplex before leaving for California to play the Ducks in game five on Friday at 9 p.m.