Nobody’s perfect. Not even the Nashville Predators on home ice. The result is the Predators are facing their first real adversity of the postseason.
Corey Perry’s shot from the boards deflected off Predators defenseman P.K Subban’s stick and past goalie Pekka Rinne at 10 minutes, 25 seconds of overtime to lift Anaheim to a 3-2 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. With the win, the Ducks tied the series at 2-2 heading back to Anaheim while producing their fourth overtime win of the postseason.
The loss was the first on home ice for the Predators in seven games this postseason, and it broke a 10-game home winning streak over the last two postseasons. Anaheim’s three goals were also the most Nashville has allowed on home ice this postseason, chipping away at both the Bridgestone Arena mystique and Rinne’s mystique.
“We were on our heels,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were quicker. They were first everywhere, more physical and that usually dictates the play.”
It’s something the Predators had not fallen victim to in a pivotal game in the playoffs. They were always the early aggressor against Chicago, St. Louis and even Anaheim earlier in this series. The Preds dictated outcomes because they dictated play. On Thursday, the Ducks outshot Nashville 14-2 in the first period and had a 2-0 lead by the midpoint of the second period, tying the largest deficit the Predators have faced at home this postseason.
Nashville did its best to bounce back. Subban and Filip Forbserg scored third-period goals to force overtime — the latter with 36 seconds left on a play that should have been whistled dead after Ryan Johansen’s blatant cross-check on Josh Manson created the opportunity — but unlike Game 3 against Chicago in the first round, Nashville couldn’t close the deal in overtime.
For the first time this postseason, the Predators have surrendered home-ice advantage after seizing it in Game 1 of all three series. When that realty sets in, you start to look for flaws in a team’s game.
One area to consider is the Predators’ impotent power play, which squandered a 5-on-3 chance late in Thursday’s game without even putting a shot on goal. Nashville’s power play is 1-for-17 in this series.
The other simple concern is the Ducks are managing to generate more offense than Nashville’s first two opponents. Chicago scored three goals in four games. St Louis managed 11 in six games. Anaheim, which leads the postseason with 3.07 goals per game, has 11 goals in four games against Nashville.
And now the Ducks have momentum heading back to the Honda Center, where two of this series’ final three games are scheduled to be played. Few teams skate through an entire playoff without a gut-check or two. Nashville’s first real challenge is plain to see.
“We’ve got to win a game,” Subban said. “We’ve got to go in their building and win one. We’ve done it before and we’ve got to do it again.”