Ducks even Western Conference final with Predators
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Nick Ritchie scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period, and the Anaheim Ducks roared back from an early two-goal deficit to even the Western Conference finals with a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Sunday night.
Jakob Silfverberg, Sami Vatanen and Ondrej Kase also scored while the Ducks cracked imposing goalie Pekka Rinne with a thrilling surge of four goals in less than 19 minutes. The Predators hadn’t allowed four goals in any game during their excellent Stanley Cup playoff run before Anaheim finally got rolling for its sellout crowd.
Whitehall native John Gibson stopped 30 shots, and Antoine Vermette had an empty-net goal for the Ducks.
Ryan Johansen, James Neal and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators.
Game 3 is Tuesday night in Nashville.
Rinne made 22 saves for the Predators, who faced relatively little adversity while steamrolling Chicago and St. Louis in the first two rounds on the way to the first conference finals in franchise history.
Two days after Nashville’s 3-2 overtime victory at Honda Center in the series opener, Johansen and Neal scored in the opening 8:32 of Game 2.
The Ducks finally awakened at the prospect of their second straight 0-2 series deficit and replied with high-octane hockey — and a few fortunate bounces — that was too much even for Rinne, who hadn’t given up four goals in a game since March 13.
Ritchie, the power forward making his first career playoff run, scored the winning goal in Game 7 against Edmonton. Four days later, he got his next major goal on an exceptional high shot that appeared to glance off Rinne’s mask on the way in.
Anaheim hung on through a frenetic third period, surviving a few mad scrambles before captain Ryan Getzlaf got his third assist of the night on Vermette’s empty-netter. The Ducks also got several good saves from Gibson, who has raised his level of play from the first two rounds.
Although Honda Center was much fuller and louder than it was for the traffic-affected series opener, the Ducks’ knack for slow starts at home remained constant.
After Johansen scored on a breakaway just 4:18 in, Neal doubled the lead on a power play with one of the easiest goals in recent history, escorting the puck unimpeded into the net when Gibson completely lost sight of the play.
The now-familiar ominous hush fell over Honda Center, but the Ducks got going in an unlikely scenario. Anaheim’s power play was scoreless in 21 straight attempts dating to Game 2 of the second round against Edmonton, but Vatanen beat Rinne cleanly with a slap shot for his first goal of the postseason.
Silfverberg evened it in the opening minute of the second period, cashing in Rickard Rakell’s pass on the back side of Rinne for the ninth goal of the Swede’s outstanding postseason.
The Predators took another lead when Forsberg cashed in a rebound of a breakaway by speedy Viktor Arvidsson, who had two assists.
The Ducks pulled even again on the first career playoff goal for Kase, the aggressive Czech rookie, who slipped a puck through traffic.