Preds Take Game One, Goaltending the Key

ANAHEIM – The Anaheim Ducks got off to a slow start in their first round series against the Nashville Predators, falling 4-1 at home to give the Preds a 1-0 series lead and, perhaps more importantly, home-ice advantage moving forward.

The Ducks were a huge disappointment in 2009-10, failing to reach the playoffs, and so they were a team on a mission in 2010-11, needing to prove to themselves, their fans, and their competition that last season was a fluke and that they would be back with a vengeance in this year’s playoffs. They succeeded, and in the final weekend of the regular season, they rose from a jeopardized seventh seed to the fourth seed in 27 frenzied hours, earning home-ice advantage for their first round playoff series against Nashville.

But things weren’t looking completely rosy in Anaheim going into this series. For one thing, as if it wasn’t tough enough being the four-five match up, the Ducks had only won one of their four games against the Predators this season. The biggest difference between the teams is in goal. Pekka Rinne had a 2.12 GAA and a .930 save percentage on the season, providing the Preds with consistently reliable puck-stopping all season long. Meanwhile, Ducks starter Dan Ellis was a trade deadline acquisition to whom the team is still adjusting. He’s played well, with a record of 8-3-1, and he earned both of the back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Kings in the last weekend of the regular season that helped the Ducks earn their playoff standing.

However, he hadn’t played much in the recent weeks, because the red-hot Ray Emery had taken the reigns and appeared to be on the inside track to start for the Ducks in the playoffs. However, about halfway through the Ducks third-to-last game of the regular season against the San Jose Sharks, Emery left with a lower-body injury and had been listed as day-to-day ever since. Despite the injury, with Jonas Hiller being out with vertigo for the majority of the second half of the season, Emery served as the Ducks’ back-up goaltender for Game One against the Predators.

The Preds came out early, struck first and the attack didn’t stop. Shea Weber, Steve Sullivan and Mike Fisher all scored for Nashville and by the start of the third period, the Predators were up three-nothing.  They got a second goal from Fisher early in the third, at which point Ducks’ coach Randy Carlyle pulled Ellis from the game and put Emery in.

“That’s definitely not the start that we wanted,” Ellis said. “We really have to outwork that team.  That’s a team that if you’re not matching their intensity and their work ethic then they are a tough team to beat.”

Emery stopped all of the six shots he faced after filling in for Ellis, and Carlyle considers him to be a possibility for game 2 on Friday.

The Ducks, on the other hand, were finally able to get the puck past Rinne on a power play goal from Teemu Selanne. Rinne stopped all but that one of the twenty-eight shots that the Ducks put on net.

“He’s 6’5’’, 6’6’’,” Corey Perry commented. “He takes up a lot of the net. That is why they are here. He’s brought them a long way. We know how good he is, we just have to get more traffic and more shots at him.”

Ryan Getzlaf concurred, “He’s one of the best goalies in the league. We’ll find ways to score goals and we’ll continue on.”

The series will resume on Friday in Anaheim, where the Ducks will look to bounce back and tie up the series.



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