If it’s as easy to get open shots against the Ducks as the Nashville Predators made it seem Friday, you can toss goals like this, and assists like this, out the window. And you can toss the Ducks out of the playoffs.
With all due respect to Jerred Smithson (previous career playoff goals: 1) and Jordin Tootoo (previous career playoff assists: 2), the ending to the Ducks’ Game 5 loss was as inexplicable as it was stunning. Let the record show that Mr. Smithson caught the Ducks’ defense napping and deposited a pass from behind the net by Mr. Tootoo into the net to send the Ducks to the brink of elimination.
Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions.
My notes and observations that didn’t make the paper:
It would seem easy to blame rookies Brandon McMillan and Nick Bonino, both of whom were on the ice for Smithson’s game-winning goal, for the defensive breakdown that cost Anaheim the game. But head coach Randy Carlyle wouldn’t go that far. “I think tonight was one of their stronger games,” he said.
Neither Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf nor Carlyle copped to any bad vibes among the players in the dressing room following the third period, when Shea Weber scored with 35.3 seconds left to tie the game at 3. “We felt we could recover for sure,” Carlyle said.
“We knew we still had an opportunity to win the hockey game,” Getzlaf said. “We talked about a few things that we wanted to tighten up, and we didn’t execute when we went out on the ice.”
Aside from passing up his requisite share of open shots, Getzlaf had a strong game. He saved his best work for the faceoff circle (21-16) and didn’t turn the puck over once in a whopping 27:48 time on ice.
The same could not be said for Saku Koivu, who lost the fateful draw to Mike Fisher that led directly to Weber’s goal. Carlyle said there was a missed assignment on the sequence; Weber had far too much time and space to get off his wrist shot from the left point. Even if Koivu had not won the faceoff, Carlyle said, he could “not so much win the faceoff as tie it up.”
So why wasn’t Getzlaf on the ice for the draw against Fisher? He had just come off the ice after an 81-second shift.
Teemu Selanne’s take: “It was very tough to lose the game like this, but it’s all about bouncing back right now. It feels really terrible right now, but there’s reason why we play best-of-seven. I still have a lot of belief in this team.”
In addition to Jarkko Ruutu, who was suspended for the game by the NHL for his hit on Martin Erat on Game 4 (Erat didn’t play either), the Ducks’ scratches were Andy Sutton, Brad Winchester, Dan Sexton, Kyle Chipchura, Jonas Hiller and Igor Bobkov. J-P Dumont went into the Predators’ lineup for the first time in the series.
Jason Blake had the second two-goal game of his postseason career, and scored his fourth and fifth career playoff goals.