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Stunning Game 2 Reversal Brings Preds, Ducks Even

Posted: 12:56 PM, May 15, 2017
Updated: 2017-05-15 17:57:06Z

On the day off between games one and two of the Western Conference Final, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette implored his team to remain hungry. Winning game one in overtime was huge, but this was no time to take the foot off the gas.

"Right now it's just about being consistent with your effort, physically and mentally," Laviolette said. "And understanding that, probably, if you let your guard down, you're not going to like the way the game ends."

The Predators seemed to heed their coach's advice early, jumping to a quick 2-0 lead in the game's first 8:32 thanks to a breakaway goal from Ryan Johansen and a Power Play tally from James Neal.

The Preds looked even faster and and more dominant in the first period than they did through the three periods and overtime Friday night when they outshot the Ducks 46-29. It was understandable if you started to wonder if they might just make quick work of the Pacific Division champs, like they did to the Blackhawks and Blues before them.

It's human nature to let your guard down, to feel like this might just be how the series goes. But just when minds started to wander to what could be, the tide turned.

Matt Irwin was unable to play a bouncing puck in front of the Preds' goal and was forced to take a penalty to prevent a point blank shot attempt.

The Ducks capitalized with a Sami Vatanen Power Play blast just :32 later and the Honda Center came alive.

"What changed is we took a penalty at the end of the first period," Laviolette. "They grabbed some momentum at the end of the first period and then came out and scored another quick goal. The momentum just shifted a bit."

When Jakob Silfverberg scored his second goal of the series :39 into the second period it was clear this was a whole new ballgame and, perhaps, series.

The Ducks continued their assault in the second period, peppering Pekka Rinne with shots through heavy traffic in front of the net. Ondrej Kase's first career playoff goal tied the game again 3-3, and Nick Ritchie's high shot beat Rinne for a 4-3 lead that proved to be the game-winner.

The four goals came in a stunning span of 18:07, and set the mark for the most goals allowed by Rinne in a game in what has otherwise been a brilliant postseason from the Nashville goaltender.

"Personally, got to be better moving forward," Rinne said. "A few of the goals they crashed the net and bumped, I mean, good plays, but they just ended up going in. It's hard to explain."

The turnaround left the Predators looking for ways to explain how their fortunes so quickly turned. What was clear in the 5-3 loss is that this series that seemed like it may have been headed for a rout through a game and a period is now very much on.

The Preds head home with a split from the two games in California, which is nothing to hang their heads about. They will enjoy what is sure to be an electric environment in Nashville for game three Tuesday night.

But perhaps for the first time this postseason, they will have to come up with an answer for what the Ducks did to them over the last 41:00 of game two.

The Blackhawks never had an answer. The Blues, try as they might, just couldn't match the Preds' firepower. But it now appears Anaheim has the physicality and offensive weapons to make this a battle.

"They're a good team, and we knew that," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "For the most part it was a back and forth game, both teams had chances and I think both teams played hard."

The Preds were seemingly on their way to seizing control of this series Sunday evening, but just as their coach had warned couldn't afford to let their guard down against a team as good as the Ducks.

They did, ever so briefly, and now we have a whole new series.