The Ducks played like a different team in Game 4 compared to Game 3. In part, they were.
Sheldon Brookbank, Kyle Palmieri and Brad Winchester came out of the lineup; and Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja and Jarkko Ruutu went in — but the biggest difference in the 6-3 win seemed to be the Ducks’ resolve.
Goals by Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Brandon McMillan in the third period broke a 3-3 tie, and the series shifts back to Anaheim on Friday tied at two games apiece.
Goals by Cam Fowler and Saku Koivu staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 5:14. Patric Hornqvist answered 34 seconds later for Nashville, and Joel Ward’s power-play goal at 5:44 of the second period tied the game at 2.
Teemu Selanne deflected a Getzlaf shot past Pekka Rinne with the Ducks on the power play at 11:41 of the second period to temporarily restore the one-goal lead. But Kevin Klein and Matt Halischuk caught the Anaheim defense napping, with Klein setting up Halischuk for the equalizer at 14:15.
A delay of game penalty to Nick Bonino with 31.5 seconds left in the second period carried over to the third period, and could have given the Predators the break they were looking for. Instead, Perry scored short-handed 1:17 into the third period to give the Ducks all the momentum they needed. Nashville put only three shots on Ray Emery (19 saves) in the entire third period.
The Ducks outshot Nashville 38-22 in the game, and Rinne wasn’t around to see the end of it. He was lifted for Anders Lindback after McMillan’s goal at 6:46 of the third period.
“We just felt that the way we played the other night, we needed a little bit more size on the back end,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We hadn’t played Sutton and Lilja in a while. We thought that some of our younger players — specifically Sbisa and Bonino … McMillan and Beleskey, those are all very young players — we just felt they would be more comfortable with a 6-foot-5 defenseman and another 6-foot-3, 220-pound defenseman on the back end.”
A few more notes and observations:
With Bobby Ryan serving the final game of his league-mandated two-game suspension, McMillan was slotted in as the top-line left wing again alongside Getzlaf and Perry. He might not get that opportunity again, but took advantage of this one — co-leading the team with six shots on goal, and recording a goal and an assist in 13:45.
The goals by Fowler and McMillan were the first for both rookies in the playoffs.
Getzlaf probably needed the biggest bounce-back of any individual from Game 3, when he took zero shots, lost 12 of 18 faceoffs, and finished with a minus-2 rating. The captain led the way in Game 4 with six shots on net, one goal, one assist, and a team-leading 17-18 record on faceoffs.
For the first time in the series, the team that won the most draws (Nashville went 40-30) did not win the game.
Selanne’s second-period goal gave him five in the playoffs, which leads the NHL.
Carlyle used all seven of his active defensemen and for the most part rolled three forward lines. Ruutu (5:41 total TOI, 2:29 at even strength) and George Parros (2:10 TOI) were scarcely heard from. “We just felt that was a better mix for today,” Carlyle said of his seven-D rotation, but considering the way the playoffs usually go, and how Game 4 went specifically, it would not be unusual to see that trend continue.
The Ducks blocked 20 shots, including five by Toni Lydman and four from Francois Beauchemin.
Friday’s game at Honda Center begins at 7 p.m., not 7:30 like Games 1 and 2.
Another game, another controversial hit. Ruutu sent Predators forward Martin Erat out of the game with an upper-body injury, the result of what appeared to be a shoulder-on-shoulder collision in the second period. The hit looked clean — Ruutu approached Erat to the side, but certainly from the front and not Erat’s blindside — but Ruutu was given a 2-minute minor penalty for interference on the play after an unusual delay. Carlyle’s take: “We reveiwed it. I didn’t see any direct blow to the head, it was shoulder-on-shoulder, and I don’t even think there should have been a penalty called. We timed it at 16:04, and at 16:03 (Erat) was laying on the ice. … I don’t know what you guys saw, I didn’t see any shoulder driven to the head.”