In goalie showdown, Nashville Predators pounce in OT, win conference finals opener

ByAndrew Knoll ESPN logo
Saturday, May 13, 2017

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

Rinne's Nashville Predators prevailed 3-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday despite 43 saves by his counterpart, Anaheim Ducks netminder John Gibson. Rinne stopped 27 of 29 shots, including some sterling chances from Anaheim's top players. Rinne leads all goalies this postseason in wins, save percentage, goals-against average and shutouts.

It was winger James Neal who provided the winning goal in overtime. His one-timer banked in off Ducks winger Corey Perry. It wasthe second time the Predators scored off an Anaheim player in Game 1.

How it happened:The well-rested Predators, who had three more days off than the Ducks, had their legs moving early. Their start included the game's first five shots on goal, but Anaheim's first shot on net ended up in the net, whenJakob Silfverberg'swrist shot surprised Rinne to the far side.

The Predators drew even on a redirection by Filip Forsberg. Austin Watson gave Nashville a lead early in the second when a shot he sent careening wide ricocheted in off Anaheim's Sami Vatanen. The Ducks recovered and traded blows with Nashville. Their proficiency on draws paid off in the form of defensemanHampus Lindholm's equalizer off an offensive-zone faceoff in the third period. The Ducks took consecutive delay-of-game penalties in the third but killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 disadvantage, punctuated by a magnificent, cross-crease save by Gibson on Roman Josi to preserve the tie.

Shutdown vs. Heat-up:Fresh off duty containing Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Anaheim's line of Ryan Kesler, Andrew Cogliano and Silfverberg saw plenty of action against Nashville's prolific "JOFA" line. Ryan Johansen, Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson did combine for three points and eight shots, but Johansen racked up an assist on an extended shift with another line and Forsberg's goal came againstAntoine Vermette's line. The Kesler line was on for zero goals against and produced a goal as well, containing the potent Predators trio for the most part.

What's next:Game 2 is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Honda Center.

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