The Nashville Predators knew what to expect from the Anaheim Ducks and were well prepared to stick to their game plan in a 4-1 Nashville win that was marred by 48 penalty minutes in a rough and tumble affair.
Mike Fisher was clearly the star of the game as he scored two goals and added an assist in his first playoff game as a Predator. Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan chipped in with goals in the strong offensive effort.
Pekka Rinne was outstanding in net stopping 27 of 28 Anaheim shots and withstanding plenty of rough play around the crease. Dan Ellis was chased from the net after surrendering the Preds fourth goal and was replaced by Ray Emery who stopped all six shots that he faced.
Before the game, there was plenty of concern about the Ducks’ power play unit, but the Predators held them to a single goal on five man advantage situations. The Preds were also 1-for-5 on the power play.
The game got off to an uneven start for the Preds with Anaheim keeping the puck in the Preds’ zone to a large extent for the first couple of minutes. At 3:11, the tide turned when Matt Belesky took down Kevin Klein on the boards, putting the Preds on the man advantage.
The Preds took advantage of the power play when Weber fired one of his patented bombs from near the blue line to give the Preds an early 1-0 lead at 4:14. Fisher and Ryan Suter assisted on the play.
The Ducks went on the power play at 5:53 when Shane O’Brien was sent to the box when he got his stick up on Jason Blake. The Ducks’ second-ranked power play unit was held to one shot by the Preds’ fifth-ranked penalty kill unit.
Belesky took his second penalty of the period at 8:05 when he boarded Sergei Kostitsyn near the benches. The Predators did not convert on the man advantage.
Corey Perry left the bench with 1:00 remaining in the period after he appeared to be hit under the arm by a Luca Sbisa slap shot. He returned for regular shifts in the next period.
Rinne made several highlight reel saves as the opening period wound down.
Play was fast and furious for the remainder of the period in what Nashville head coach Barry Trotz would describe as a good road period where the Predators survived with a 1-0 lead. Shots were tied, 8-8, while the Ducks led the Corsi, 22-19.
The second period started with the Preds going back on the power play at 1:10 when Teemu Selanne upended Marty Erat and was called for tripping, The Preds got a pair of shots on the man advantage but Anaheim did a good job of helping Ellis around the net.
At 12:39 Shane O’Brien was called for interference on Perry as they battled through the neutral zone. The Ducks got a pair of shots but did not convert on their second power play of the evening.
At 15:16, Sullivan won the race to a loose puck near the left wall in the Ducks zone and drove to the net, took a shot, grabbed the rebound, and slipped the puck under Ellis’s outstretched pad and into the net to give the Preds a 2-0 lead. Cody Franson and Blake Geoffrion were awarded assists.
Then Fisher surprised Ellis with a shot from the right faceoff circle using a diving Lubomir Visnovsky as a partial screen at 18:08 to put the Preds ahead 3-0. Patric Hornqvist and Klein assisted on the goal.
The second period was a brutal checking period by the Ducks. Sheldon Brookbank and Brad Winchester tried to grind the Preds into the boards on a regular basis. Perry was even getting chippy with Rinne after the final horn. The Predators dominated on shots in the middle stanza outshooting the Ducks 14-8 and leading the Corsi 22-17.
The Ducks came out hard in the third period but their strategy was short lived at Jon Blum chipped a puck to Fisher who took it into the Ducks zone and ripped a shot high on Ellis 56 seconds into the period to give the Preds a 4-0 lead.
Ellis was replaced by Emery after giving up four goals on 24 Predator shots. In typical Ducks hockey fashion, Brookbank was called for interference on Jordin Tootoo at 2:43 in what should have been two penalties when he crosschecked Tootoo in a much harder blow after he regained his footing. The Preds picked up a shot on the power play.
Things deteriorated rapidly as the officials tried to maintain control.The Ducks were called for a penalty again at 7:33 when Winchester was called for roughing. With three seconds left on the Preds power play at 9:30, Sbiza took Geoffrion into the wall and he retaliated for the nasty shot. Both headed to the box with offsetting penalties.
At 10:28, Perry and Klein got into a scuffle behing the preds net where Klein ended up with a double minor for roughing and Perry received a five minute major for cross-checking. The Ducks received 1:23 of five on three advantage.
The Ducks finally scored on the five on three at 11:24 when Selanne was on the off side of the net during a scramble and scored on an open net. Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan were given assists.
Joel Ward was called for hooking at 15:48 to give the Ducks one more kick at the can. but the Predators penalty kill unit held firm.
With 44.9 seconds left, George Paros and Jarkko Ruutu were given ten minute game misconduct penalties as the officials tried to regain control. It wasn’t enough because as the clocked ticked to zero there was a mass scrum when Perry went back after Klein and both teams crowed around.
In the final period, the Ducks out shot the Preds, 12-8, and led the Corsi, 22-14, as they desperately tried to put the puck on net. The Ducks also continued to create scrums around Rinne which is reminiscent of the type of situation that injured Rinne in the opening game of the season in Nashville.
The Ducks were accessed a total of 34 penalty minutes and the Preds received 14 in the scrappy game that is typical of what Anaheim’s reputation produces.
The Predators will practice on Friday and prepare for game two against the Ducks on Friday night at 9:30 CDT at the Honda Center.