2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 - Nashville 4, Anaheim 3 – Predators lead series, 2-1
The Nashville Predators were given a huge opportunity to take control of their opening-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. They almost blew it.
But not quite.
With Anaheim star Bobby Ryan serving the first installment of a two-game suspension for a mindless skate-stomping incident in Friday’s Game 2, Nashville encountered a short-handed bunch of Ducks in Game 3 on Sunday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Music City U.S.A. Nashville has been in position to take command of prior postseason series over the past few years, but the Predators failed to seal the deal. Just last year, in fact, the Preds had the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes, owning a power-play late in Game 5 of a 2-2 series while having a one-goal lead. Somehow, the Preds inexplicably allowed Chicago to score a game-tying goal in the final 15 seconds of regulation. Nashville lost in overtime, and that’s how the Hawks managed to dig out of the first round and win their first Stanley Cup since 1961. If Nashville can merely find a way to handle prosperity, the franchise can not only win its first-ever playoff series, but perhaps find the confidence and belief needed to fashion a long run through the NHL playoff bracket.
Sunday offered a good start, though the Preds typically tempted the fates and almost blew a golden opportunity.
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Nashville frankly destroyed the Ryan-less Ducks on the merits. The Predators outshot Anaheim by a 37 to 16 margin. The home team destroyed the visitors from Southern California in the game’s first 35 minutes. A pair of first-period goals carried Nashville to a 2-0 lead that held up through most of the second period, but that’s when the Preds’ demons resurfaced. Careless plays in the middle of the ice and shaky goaltending by the normally solid Pekka Rinne allowed Anaheim’s ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne, to net two goals within 30 seconds of each other, and the Ducks skated to the locker room at the second intermission with a 2-2 tie. Nashville gained a 3-2 lead on a David Legwand goal more than five minutes into the third period, but Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey tied the score less than two minutes later. Nashville carried the play on Sunday, but couldn’t shake the Ducks after 50 minutes of hockey.
However, to their immense credit, the Predators didn’t slump their shoulders. They kept pushing, and were rewarded for their persistence. Mike Fisher lit the lamp with 9:39 left in the third period, and this time, Nashville didn’t allow a tying tally from the Ducks. Rinne didn’t let in any more soft goals, and the Predators made Ryan pay for his asinine move on Friday night. With Ryan still out for Game 4, Anaheim has to find an extra gear; if not, the Nashville Predators really could establish a choke-hold on an NHL playoff opponent. It would be the first time for such an occurrence, but not too soon for a franchise that’s starving for postseason success.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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