The Nashville Predators captured Game 1 of the Western Conference Final in overtime, as James Neal blasted a shot that deflected off of Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry and over goalie John Gibson for the 3-2 win on Friday night.
It was a physical affair between two teams that met each other in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. Ducks goalie John Gibson, coming off a Game 7 win against the Edmonton Oilers, was brilliant in making 43 saves. Unfortunately, some help from a teammate on the game-winning shot came at the wrong time.
Here’s the goal form Neal at 9:24 of overtime, his fourth goal of the playoffs.
The Predators gained control of the puck off the faceoff. One of the advantages Nashville had coming into the series was their mobile, scoring defense, and Mattias Ekholm lived up to the hype with a power move to the goal from the point that Perry couldn’t defend.
Thus began a nightmarish sequence for Perry, who was burned on that play, fell in the Ducks’ crease, caused Gibson to stumble while getting up, and then attempted to save the day for Gibson by sliding in front of him to block a shot – instead, the puck deflected off of him and in.
It was the second career playoff OT goal for Neal.
Game 1 was an intense affair between these conference rivals.
Jakob Silfverberg scored an unassisted goal on the Anaheim Ducks’ first shot of the series at 5:15 of the first, snapping a wrist shot past Rinne for the 1-0 lead.
Filip Forsberg tied the game at 12:34 of the first, deflecting home a Matt Irwin shot.
Then, at 2:42 of the second period, Austin Watson scored his first of the playoffs as his blast to Gibson’s right went off the skate of Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen and in.
The Predators entered the third period with a lead, having gone 5-0 in the playoffs with a lead after two and 29-2-6 in the regular season.
But Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm scored a long-distance goal against Rinne to tie the game at 7:21 of the third, off a Nate Thompson faceoff win.
It was Lindholm’s first of the postseason through 12 games.
The game would eventually go to overtime, and the Predators took the 1-0 series lead.
Kudos to the Predators, overcoming a somewhat leaky performance from a usually dominant Rinne and going 0-for-5 on the power play despite 11 shots. They were the fresher team and the better team for most of the game. And now they’re up on the Ducks.
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