Playing without Bobby Ryan due to a league-imposed suspension, and without their best defensive game plan for reasons unknown, the Ducks needed to steal one to win Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Sunday in Nashville.
Despite trailing 2-0 late in the second period, and 3-2 early in the third, they nearly did.
Mike Fisher’s goal at 10:21 of the third period held up as the game-winner, and the Predators’ 4-3 victory put the Ducks in a 2-1 hole in the best-of-seven series.
Teemu Selanne scored goals 30 seconds apart late in the second period to erase the 2-0 deficit. With the Ducks trailing 3-2 early in the third period, Matt Beleskey re-directed a Saku Koivu shot past Pekka Rinne (13 saves) to tie the game again.
It was nearly enough for the Ducks to pull out the road win despite being outshot 37-16 and despite the absence of Ryan, who was suspended for Games 3 and 4 of the series for stepping on Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum.
Ray Emery (33 saves) held his weight against the barrage of shots, but some defensive-zone lapses by the Ducks did him in — Martin Erat took advantage of a poor clearing attempt by Lubomir Visnovsky on the game’s first goal; Ryan Getzlaf mishandled the puck just before Jordin Tootoo put it in the Ducks’ net; David Legwand and Fisher snuck behind the defense to score the Preds’ final two goals on Emery’s back door.
A few more notes and observations:
Kyle Palmieri was the surprise replacement for Ryan in the lineup — surprising if only that the last of his 10 career NHL games came in November. He had been a productive player for AHL affiliate Syracuse in the meantime, and he started Sunday’s game with former Crunch linemates Matt Beleskey and Nick Bonino. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle shuffled his lines quite a bit after the first period (the Ducks were being outshot 16-4 at one point early in the second) and Palmieri wound up with one shot on goal in an otherwise uneventful 10:07 — including 46 seconds on the power play.
Randy Carlyle on the decision to play Palmieri: “The decision was based upon the fact that he’s played very, very well the last six weeks in the American Hockey League. He is a scorer, so welt that adding that potential offense that he can provide was a better option.” And on the line as a whole: “The Kid Line they were fine. They worked hard. They could’ve done a better job supporting the puck in the offensive zone a couple times but you cannot fault them for their involvement in the game, their compete level. They handled themselves quite well, I thought.”
Selanne broke Rob Niedermayer’s team record by playing in his 74th career playoff game as a Duck. The goals were his 38th and 39th all-time in the playoffs. Not that it mattered to Selanne, who was unusually coarse in his postgame assessment: “We have no business in this (expletive) game. No business. They want it more. They won the battles. We were lucky to be even in the game. Very disappointed. … I hope everybody’s going to be pissed off about this and (expletive) learn something about this.”
Predators head coach Barry Trotz, meanwhile, wins for Most Politcally Correct Postgame Quote: “Sometimes you have to get kicked in some of the places you don’t want to get kicked before you realize, ‘I have to do this, and if I do this I’ll be successful.'”
Andreas Lilja, Andy Sutton, Kyle Chipchura, Jarkko Ruutu, Dan Sexton and Jonas Hiller were the Ducks’ scratches.
Defensemen usually get more ice time than forwards, but Corey Perry played a team-high 25:34 tonight.
The Predators won the faceoff battle tonight (27-24) and the team that has won the most faceoffs has gone on to win all three games of the series. As is often the case, Todd Marchant (6-2) and Saku Koivu (9-6) did fine, while Ryan Getzlaf (6-12) and Nick Bonino (3-6) did not. Fisher (11-6) was dominant for Nashville.
Game 4 is Wednesday in Nashville.