National Hockey League playoffs 2017: James Neal's goal gives Predators OT win over Ducks

Doug Mendoza
May 19, 2017

The Nashville Predators had it easy. They then took down the St. Louis Blues in six close games. That was on Sunday. Nashville, meanwhile, had four days off between games. Nashville's 3-2 overtime win was the team's third Game 1 win on the road this postseason. Anaheim would have to gear up for a winner-take-all Game 7 Wednesday night.

Pearn said a concern will be the faceoff edge the Ducks often have.

"As the game went on, Anaheim didn't seem as set on it", Pearn said.

"We're just trying to play our game", Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said.

Neal is confident the Predators' journey through the post season prepared them well for the Ducks.

Where the Predators hold the advantage is that they have had all week to prepare for a high-octane offense.

Nashville has a serious challenge now, and adversity has arrived in the form of Ryan Kesler, the Ducks' defense-minded center.

The Ducks see the problem as largely mental, and they intend to address it in the hours before the series resumes. There will be no catching Roman Josi flatfooted. While Neal scored the victor, he was only open to score on P.K. Subban's pass because the defenseman froze the entire Anaheim defense with a picture-perfect shot fake.

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Anaheim did win Games 5 and 7 on home ice, and both were monumental wins for obvious reasons. The Predators will go for a commanding lead, while the Ducks will try to avoid going to Nashville down 2-0 in the series. And even then it did not come without some controversy. It came after a thrilling back-and-forth game that hinted at what should be a fantastic seven-game battle between two great teams. But I don't think Nashville can expect to win the series without an edge in this area. "We've got 20 guys in here on a nightly basis during the game that can play and contribute".

That kind of energy would especially be needed at a time where the Ducks are relying on pure adrenaline to beat the Preds. At times, Anaheim's players looked like they were skating in slush. Whether or not it works will hinge on their ability to adapt on the fly.

Players won't readily admit that exhaustion can play a part in on-ice participation, but at this stage in the playoffs the question should start cropping up. "We've been fortunate to win [three games] and now it doesn't feel good because I think we had a couple of scoring chances but couldn't find the back of the net in overtime". He's eager to remind everyone that he's only one component of a defensive group that has driven the Predators to these unprecedented postseason heights. San Jose signed forwards Melker Karlsson (three years) and Joonas Donskoi (two years). In their first encounter back in October, the Ducks ran the Preds out of the Honda Center 6-1. Neither team scored on power plays, but the Predators failed to score with a 5-on-3 power play.

Goaltending will be at the forefront tonight.

Rinne stopped 26 of Anaheim's 27 shots in Game 6 in 2016, evening the series 3-3 in Nashville.

In any goaltenders' duel this postseason, it would be unwise to bet against Pekka Rinne.

During the regular season, the Predators were 15th in the league short handed. "We continue to get contributions from everyone".

But cart before the horse, and all that. And it was only getting worse. None of the Predators' goals got past Gibson without some extenuating circumstances, whether it was a deflection by Forsberg, a shot by Austin Watson that bounced off Sami Vatanen's backside and past Gibson, or Neal's final shot that Gibson tried to stop without a stick.

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