Nashville 4, Ducks 3.

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:
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Ruutu, Carlyle address suspension.

Jarkko Ruutu made it clear Friday that he didn’t want to cause a stir with anything he said about his one-game suspension.

The Finnish forward nearly took a line straight out of the Mark McGwire Congressional Testimony transcript, saying “what happened yesterday, happened yesterday.”

Asked specifically if he had a reaction to his one-game, league-imposed ban for tonight’s Game 5, Ruutu replied, “I don’t think it really matters what I think. It’s a team game. One guy is out, another guy is in. In the end, the only thing that really matters is how we do tonight. That’s how I see things. Let’s move on.”

Ruutu did offer up a couple specifics about the hearing: It lasted about five minutes, and his status as a repeat offender (he received a pair of two-game bans during the 2008-09 season) did not come up in the conversation with the NHL. So there goes one theory about why Ruutu was forced to sit for a hit that Randy Carlyle didn’t think deserved a hearing.
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NHL suspends Ruutu for Game 5.

Jarkko Ruutu will be forced to sit out Game 5 of the Ducks’ first-round playoff series Friday as a result of his hit on Predators forward Martin Erat in Game 4 Wednesday in Nashville.

Unlike the league’s two-game suspension of Bobby Ryan earlier in the series, no explanation was offered Thursday in the form of a quote from disciplinarian Colin Campbell. Here’s how the full press release read:

Anaheim Ducks forward Jarkko Ruutu has been suspended for one game for
delivering a late hit to Nashville Predators forward Martin Erat in Game
Four of their Western Conference quarterfinal last night, the National
Hockey League announced today.

The incident occurred 4:00 into the second period and Ruutu was assessed a minor penalty for interference on the play.

Ruutu’s suspension will be served tomorrow night (April 22) when the Ducks host the Predators in Game Five of the series.

And here’s what the hit looked like. Judge for yourself:


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Ducks 6, Nashville 3.

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:
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Nashville 4, Ducks 3.

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:
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Bobby Ryan suspended two games for foot stomp. (Photo)

The NHL has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Ducks forward Bobby Ryan for 2 p.m. He faces possible discipline for stomping on the foot of Nashville Predators defenseman (and Long Beach native) Jonathon Blum with 3:30 left in the third period of the Ducks’ 5-3 win Friday night in Game 2.

3:02 p.m. update: Ryan was suspended two games by the league Saturday afternoon, meaning he will miss Games 3 and 4 and be eligible to return for Game 5 in Anaheim next Friday.

“The actions by Ryan were both reckless and dangerous,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said in a statement. “While it was fortunate there was no injury to Blum on the play, the act of using your skate in this manner is unacceptable.”
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Game 2 morning skate notes.

Count on Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle making more adjustments in Game 2 than his Nashville counterpart, Barry Trotz. That’s the expectation, at least, in light of the Predators’ 4-1 win in Game 1.

The first change figures to be in goal. Ray Emery was the first of the Ducks’ three goalies — four, if you include Igor Bobkov’s late cameo — to leave the ice at the morning skate Friday. Emery’s last playoff game was in this same building on June 6, 2007, when the Ducks beat Emery’s Ottawa Senators in Game 5 to win the Stanley Cup.

There could be more changes in store for the Ducks, but Carlyle declined to say who would be coming out or going into the lineup, if anyone.

Trotz said he has some minor adjustments in store.
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Nashville 4, Ducks 1.

You can pick apart where the Ducks’ playoff opener went wrong: A Matt Beleskey penalty here, a Pekka Rinne save there, a missed assignment or two or three.

Corey Perry, always a man of few words, hit the nail on the head: “We just didn’t have it.”

As it turns out, the Ducks’ late-game magic is predicated on confidence. By the middle of the middle period they had none — confidence or magic — thanks to an outstanding performance by Rinne and the Predators’ disciplined ‘D’.

Even the 5-on-3 power play that preceded Teemu Selanne’s goal in the third period was a haphazard hodgepodge of starts and stops. Fortunately for the Ducks, he and Saku Koivu got it together in time to ruin the shutout.

But Rinne’s intimidation factor remained intact.

“We played really solid defensively and our strength is penalty killing,” said the 6-foot-5 goaltender, who finished with 27 saves. “We did a good job again tonight. We played big, we played physical in our own zone and tried to limit our turnovers. On the other hand, when they turned the puck over, we executed and scored some huge goals and got the momentum going for us. We’ll enjoy this game for a bit and try to get it done in the next game.”

Check out the game details, and a variety of reasons for the Ducks’ letdown from players and coaches, in tomorrow’s editions. Some notes and observations that won’t make the paper:
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Ellis likely to start; New third line?; Black Aces up.

Dan Ellis was the first of the three Ducks goalies to leave the ice at the morning skate. That’s usually a good sign that he will be the starter, as if the writing weren’t on the wall already.

At his post-skate presser, Randy Carlyle at once declined to name his starter and explained why he doesn’t: “I’m sure that Barry Trotz and his staff have dissected what all three of our goalies have done. They probably had to do more work because we know who’s going to play for Nashville.”

Meanwhile, the forward lines stayed the same:

Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry
Blake-Koivu-Selanne
Beleskey-Bonino-McMillan
Winchester-Marchant-Parros
Ruutu-Chipchura-Sexton

Brandon McMillan is definitely skating at right wing. I think I might have mistakenly penciled him down on the left side earlier, maybe because that’s the only position other than center he’s played in his first NHL season. Switching a productive two-way center to the right side in favor of another rookie (Bonino) who hasn’t scored a point in the NHL all season is a bit unexpected, assuming Beleskey, Bonino and McMillan are in the lineup tonight against Nashville.

Carlyle, of course, had his reasons.
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First-round local TV/radio schedule announced.

The Ducks have announced their local TV and radio schedule for their Western Conference quarterfinal series vs. Nashville:

TV
Game   Date                                 Venue                            Time (Pacific)    TV
1            Wednesday, Apr. 13     Honda Center              7:30 p.m.             KDOC             
2            Friday, Apr. 15                Honda Center              7:30 p.m.             KDOC
3            Sunday, Apr. 17             Bridgestone Arena      3 p.m.                      FSW       
4            Wednesday, Apr. 20     Bridgestone Arena      5:30 p.m.                      KDOC
5            Friday, Apr. 22*              Honda Center              7:00 p.m.             PRIME TICKET
6            Sunday, Apr. 24*           Bridgestone Arena      TBD                      PRIME TICKET
7            Tuesday, Apr. 26*         Honda Center              TBD                       TBD

RADIO
Game    Date                                 Venue                           Time (Pacific)   Radio
1             Wednesday, Apr. 13     Honda Center             7:30 p.m.           KLAA 830AM
2             Friday, Apr. 15                Honda Center             7:30 p.m.           KTLK 1150AM
3             Sunday, Apr. 17             Bridgestone Arena     TBD                    KLAA 830AM
4             Wednesday, Apr. 20     Bridgestone Arena     TBD                    KTLK 1150AM
5             Friday, Apr. 22*               Honda Center             7:00 p.m.           KTLK 1150AM
6             Sunday, Apr. 24*            Bridgestone Arena     TBD                    TBD
7             Tuesday, Apr. 26*          Honda Center              TBD                   TBD