ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Ducks were less than a minute away from taking their first lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series Friday night at Honda Center; then they got greedy.
Instead of trying to kill off the last 40 seconds of regulation, the Ducks attempted to score an empty-net goal on the other end. They missed, resulting in an icing penalty.
Then everything snowballed.
They lost the ensuing faceoff in the Anaheim zone, and Predators standout defenseman Shea Weber promptly scored the tying goal with 35.3 seconds remaining.
Nashville maintained the momentum heading into overtime, long enough for the Ducks to make two additional mistakes just less than two minutes into sudden death, allowing Jerred Smithson to score the winning goal in the 4-3 victory.
Now it’s the Predators who have the 3-2 series edge heading to Sunday’s game in Nashville.
“We were 30 seconds away from being in control of this thing,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “Now we’re fighting for our lives.”
After the icing penalty in the final minute of regulation, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said he would have rather seen Saku Koivu attempt to tie up Mike Fisher on the drop. Instead, Fisher won the puck cleanly. The puck went to Cody Franson, who passed to a wide-open Weber at the point. He shot through traffic and beat Ducks goalie Ray Emery for his third goal of the series.
“You don’t try to do anything pretty; you just try to push the puck over the blue line,” Carlyle said of the faceoff. “They won it pretty clean. A missed assignment, and the bottom line is their top-scoring defenseman shoots the puck unchecked.”
The Ducks had 15 minutes of intermission to regroup before overtime, but they never had a chance to get back in rhythm. Smithson hammered Ducks rookie Brandon McMillan as he took control of the puck in front of the Ducks' bench.
The puck came loose to Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo, who skated down the left side and behind the net, where he spotted Smithson alone in the slot. Smithson sent a one-timer past Emery 1:57 into overtime, sending the shocked sold-out crowd heading to the exit, wondering whether it's the last time they'll see the Ducks this season.
“We made a mistake,” Carlyle said. “We turned the puck over along the wall and then we made a read and ran out of position and they found the open guy. There was no need for us to run out of position. There was no need for us to turn the puck over in the neutral zone, either.”
Now the Ducks will have less than 48 hours to regroup heading into Game 6 on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.
“We have our back up against the wall, and a lot of times that brings out the best in guys,” Emery said. “We are going into their building and know they come hard there. We have to be at our best and give it everything. We have one shot at it and have to take it.”