Los Angeles Hockey: Mike Fisher

Ducks: Mistakes allow Predators to steal Game 5

April, 23, 2011

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.”
Western Conference quarterfinal

Game 4

Ducks (1-2) vs. Nashville Predators (2-1) at Bridgestone Arena, 5:30 p.m. PT

1. Suspension continues: The Ducks will have to survive another game without winger Bobby Ryan, who was suspended for Games 3 and 4 for stomping on the skate of Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum late in the Game 2 victory by Anaheim at Honda Center. The Ducks scored three goals without Ryan in his first game out of the lineup but could have used a couple more in the 4-3 loss Sunday afternoon. Ryan was the second-leading goal scorer during the regular season with 34 and notched two in Anaheim’s only playoff win this series.

2. Pike with a twist: Ducks general manager Bob Murray went out of his way after Game 3 to criticize Nashville for its "diving" techniques, which he felt led to some of the 16 power plays by the Predators in this series. The most obvious sell came from Nashville forward Jerred Smithson, who acted like he was struck with a cattle prod when Brad Winchester's stick came near his face in Game 2 (video replays show Winchester's stick never touched Smithson).

3. Hiller heads home: The Ducks have sent goalkeeper Jonas Hiller home from Nashville to resume treatment for his vertigo symptoms. All signs indicate Hiller won’t be back anytime soon, as the further the Ducks get into the playoffs the least likely they’ll want to give their All-Star goalie a test run. Ray Emery is doing the best he can but when the team gets out-shot, 25-5, for nearly two periods, there’s only so much he can keep out of the net. If the Ducks don’t get through this playoff series, the Hiller situation will be one of the big "what-ifs."

4. Getzlaf gets physical: Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf had an unorthodox stat line in Game 3. He did not get a shot on goal but recorded a team-high seven hits. He was also minus-two for the game but his fight with Mike Fisher of Nashville seemed to inspire the Ducks, as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit with two Teemu Selanne goals late in the second period. Unfortunately, they didn’t take advantage of the momentum swing. Regardless, it’s pretty safe to say Ducks coach Randy Carlyle would rather his top-line quarterback use his stick more and his body less.

5. Three’s a charm: In their five previous trip to the postseason, the Predators have never won three games in a playoff series, something they can accomplish on their home ice tonight. They led Chicago, two games to one, in their quarterfinal series a year ago, but then fell apart at Bridgestone Arena in Game 4 and lost, 3-0. They didn’t win another game in the series and the Blackhawks went on to win the Stanley Cup title. The Predators are hoping for a big-game performance from goalie Pekka Rinne, who has cooled off a bit since Game 1.

Short-handed Ducks lose to Nashville, 4-3

April, 17, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 3

Nashville Predators 4, Ducks 3 (Nashville leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Playing without second-leading goal scorer Bobby Ryan, who was suspended for two games after stomping on the foot of a Nashville player in Game 2, the Ducks couldn’t overcome a slow offensive start at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and fell behind in the series.

THE STAT: The Ducks were outshot early and often. They didn’t take their first shot on goal until 9 minutes had been played. They had a 25-5 disadvantage with four minutes remaining in the second period and finished with 16 shots on goal, compared to 37 for the Predators.

TURNING POINT: With the score tied, 3-3, and about 10 minutes left in the game, the puck took an unexpected ricochet as it slid along the boards and came right to Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler in the offensive zone. Fowler made a nice move around a Nashville defender, leaving him one-on-one with goalie Pekka Rinne. Fowler slowed up and faked a shot, briefly opening up the left side of the net, but Rinne got a piece of the puck and knocked it away. Less than a minute later, Mike Fisher scored the winning goal for the Predators.

HOT: Teemu Selanne continued his remarkable late-season run, scoring two goals 30 seconds apart late in the second period to tie the score, 2-2, and provide the Ducks some much-needed momentum heading into the third. The 40-year-old winger has four goals in three playoff games and 14 goals in his last 14 games overall.

NOT: The Ducks committed six more minor penalties, resulting in five power plays for the Predators, including one that led to the game's first goal. Anaheim has had to defend 16 power plays in the first three playoff games, allowing four goals.

GOOD MOVE: At the time it didn’t look like a bright move, but captain Ryan Getzlaf's fight with Fisher must have fired up the team because Selanne immediately followed with his two goals.

BAD MOVE: Getzlaf’s lazy pass in his defensive zone during the opening period went right to Jordin Tootoo of Nashville in the slot. Tootoo hit the post with his first attempt but jumped on the rebound and put it past goalie Ray Emery for a 2-0 lead.

NOTABLE: Selanne appeared in his 74th career playoff game with Ducks, setting a new franchise record previously held by Rob Niedermayer.

UP NEXT: Game 4, Wednesday in Nashville, 5:30 p.m. PT.

Ducks: Game 3 on deck in Nashville

April, 17, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 3

Ducks (1-1) vs. Nashville Predators (1-1) at Bridgestone Arena, 3 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Ryan sits: If scoring goals against one of the league’s best goalkeepers isn’t tough enough, the Ducks will be without their second-leading goal scorer from the regular season for Games 3 and 4 in Nashville. Bobby Ryan was suspended two games by the NHL on Saturday for stomping on the skate of Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum with about 3 minutes left in Game 2. Ryan scored two goals in the 5-3 victory and 34 during the regular season.

2. Ruutu back? With the absence of Ryan, the Ducks will likely reinsert Jarrko Ruutu in the lineup. Ruutu has been racking up the penalty minutes of late but not many points. In fact, he hasn’t made the scoring column since tallying an assist Feb. 27 against Colorado. But the Ducks didn’t acquire Ruutu for his scoring touch. He’s purely a fourth-line agitator and he does that well. He just needs to stay out of the penalty box.

3. Top-line replacement? The other big question in response to Ryan’s suspension is, who will replace Ryan on the top line? Brandon McMillan practiced with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on Saturday, so that should be a good indication. McMillan had teamed with Matt Beleskey and Nick Bonino on Friday against the Predators and they had one of the best shifts of the game to set up Ryan's first goal, which gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead in the second period. When you’re dealing with Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, however, it’s always safe to expect the unexpected.

4. Outside the box: This probably goes without saying, but the longer the Ducks can stay out of the penalty box the better off they'll be against the Predators. Anaheim hasn’t been doing a good job of that lately, allowing 20 power plays over the last four regular-season games and 11 through the first two postseason games. The Ducks aren't particularly strong on the penalty kill, finishing 19th in the league during the regular season, and they’ve allowed three power-play goals in the first two playoff games.

5. Dangerous Predator: Nashville is best known for goaltender Pekka Rinne and the defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter but a key player to stop up front is Mike Fisher, who has four points in the first two playoff games. Fisher came over to Nashville in February in a trade with Ottawa. In addition to his scoring touch, Fisher was teammates with Ducks goalie Ray Emery for parts of five seasons in Ottawa, so he should know Emery’s weaknesses better than others.