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Ducks (and officials) beat Preds, even series…

What was the number one key for the Preds coming into the series? Stay out of the box.

The Nashville Predators took two slashing calls in the opening 5:00 and never recovered as the Anaheim Ducks took Game 2 of their best-of-seven series, 5-3. The first round series is now tied at 1-1.

Pekka Rinne made 23 saves in the loss while his counterpart Ray Emery on the other side of the ice collected 30.

In Game 1, the Ducks took an early penalty that led to Shea Weber opening the scoring en route to the victory. On Friday, it was the opposite. An early 5-on-3 man advantage for Anaheim led to them opening the scoring en route to the victory.

And, as much as hockey fans could point out several bad or missed calls by the officials, the Predators have nobody to blame but themselves on Martin Erat and Shane O’Briens’ back-to-back slashing calls in the opening few minutes. Both were clear as day and both were lazy plays.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “If we don’t take the penalties we did tonight, we probably are talking about a whole different story here.”

Nashville pulled within one on a mad flurry around the Anaheim net. Early in the middle frame, the Predators had a power play and made it count. Sergei Kostitsyn sent a cross-ice pass to Weber but Emery made the save. Kostitsyn then chased down the rebound and fired a shot on net but it went wide. Weber collected the rebound off the end-boards and fired it past a scrambling Emery to make it 2-1, Ducks.

Anaheim wasted no time regaining the two goal lead though as Kevin Klein was watching the puck carrier instead of his man, Bobby Ryan. Ryan got behind Klein and put in his own rebound to make it 3-1.

Late in second, Ryan Getzalf swung off of Nick Spaling in front of the net and made it 4-1 as Blake Geoffrion’s penalty expired. So, while not officially a power play goal, for all intents and purposes it was.

Then the comeback started.

When the Ducks took yet another penalty, Weber got the puck to Hornqvist who was standing on the far side of the Anaheim crease. “Horn Dog” whipped it around and slammed it home to make it 4-2, Anaheim.

All of a sudden, Nashville found themselves within one with 10:00 remaining in regulation when they added another tally, this one off the stick of Joel Ward.

Bobby Ryan would bag the empty netter in the final minute to seal this one up for the Ducks.

Since there were so many calls slanted toward the Ducks, let’s go through some of them.

At 15:08 of the first period, Nashville thought they had cut the Ducks lead to one but the officials thought otherwise. David Legwand skated through the edge of the crease and made incedental contact with Emery. It appeared the puck was already past Emery’s pad when Legwand “interferred” with him but the zebra’s disagreed and the goal was waived off. But here’s where it gets really bad. Not only was the goal waived off but they gave Legwand a 2:00 goaltender interference penalty when there was marginal contact to begin with.

Then, roughly 3:00 into the second, Ducks tough guy George Parros took down Jerred Smithson by the face, got back up and tackled Smithson then took his gloves off so he could throw punches. Smithson, however, never removed his gloves and did the right thing by not fighting back. The referees correctly assessed Parros’ actions with a double minor for roughing but they also gave Smithson 2:00 for roughing. Or, as most Preds fans called it, “2:00 for not fighting back.”

Also in the second, Hornqvist was set up in front of Emery on the power play. The Ducks netminder made the stop and Hornqvist was standing right on top of him in case it came loose. Anaheim defenseman Toni Lydman took liberties throwing a left hook cross to Hornqvist’s face. Now look, I’m all about keys protecting the goaltender and even their crease. But you do that by tying up guys, maybe a small cross-check to the midsection, etc. You don’t all out swing a punch at someone’s face well after the whistle. Add to that that, most times, when a team has had a 5-on-3 in a game, you usually see a 5-on-3 go the other way at some point. This was a completely acceptable time to make that happen. But, that unwritten rule aside, it was horrindous non-call by the officials.

With 8:21 gone in the final stanza, Martin Erat lost at least four of his front teeth after a butt-end by Sheldon Brookbank. Per usual in this game, no call.

Then came the most egregious one.

In the final minutes, when the Ducks realized the momentum was tilted toward Nashville, Bobby Ryan turned his skate into a weapon. While Jon Blum was tying up the puck behind the Preds net, Ryan was trying to jar it free but couldn’t. So, he thought it would be a good idea if he used his skate blade to slam down on Blum’s foot. An absolutely unacceptable tactic that should result (but probably won’t, due to Ryan’s star power) in a one game suspension. Ryan does, at least, face a disciplinary hearing on Saturday but, with the way the leagues operates, don’t be surprised if he’s just assessed a small, meaningless fine.

So while the officiating was terrible and the Preds took the loss, the good news is, in the third period, the Ducks looked exhausted and that should carry over to the two games in Music City. In the opening two frames, Anaheim appeared to be a completely different team than in Game 1. But then, after coming out of their dressing room for the final period, they looked like the same team from Game 1. Nashville kept with the gameplan and pulled within one to make things dramatic at the end but it was one too many penalties early in the night that sealed their fate.

Game 3 promises to be an electric atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena. Puck drops at 5:00pm local time.

* Hornqvist had nine shots to lead all skaters.
* It was Emery’s first post season win since June 2, 2007 when he was with the Ottawa Senators.
* For all the penalties they took in the first two periods, the Preds took zero in the third. And, low and behold, outscored the Ducks that period.
* Blum, Erat, Legwand and Ward were the only Preds to finish with a plus-1.

1) Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
2) Ray Emery (ANA)
3) Bobby Ryan (ANA)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //