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Preds squander golden opportunity, Ducks even series…

One of Anaheim’s best players was out of the lineup, the memory of last year’s collapse was fresh in mind and the building was rocking. It was time to see the Nashville Predators make that crucial step towards the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history by taking a 3-1 series lead.

Instead, the Anaheim Ducks capitalized on bad Preds penalties and took Game 4 by the score of 6-3. In doing so, the Ducks tied the series 2-2 and now have home ice advantage for the first time since Game 1.

Pekka Rinne, while strong early (14 saves in the first period), was average the rest of the way amassing 23 saves and allowing a whopping six goals. Easily his worst outing in a long, long time.

The frustrating thing was, once again, Ducks netminder Ray Emery looked stiff  in the Anaheim net. He still couldn’t move side-to-side very well and was leaving juicy rebounds for the third game in a row. Yet still the Preds couldn’t put enough behind him to earn the victory. Emery finished with just 19 saves.

Bobby Ryan was serving the second of his two game suspension and the Predators absolutely needed to win both games that he was out. Let alone, they were on home ice for both. How often do you get a gift that good?

Things looked bleak for Nashville early on as they basically spotted Anaheim two goals. Shane O’Brien took a stupid boarding penalty and, as they often do, the Ducks scored on the ensuring power play. It was the fourth time this series that Anaheim has scored while O’Brien was sitting in the box.

The Ducks struck again just seconds later when Saku Koivu bagged his first of the 2011 post season after the Preds, once again, couldn’t clear the puck out of their zone.

Head Coach Barry Trotz immediately used his timeout and lit up his team. And the Predators responded to the tirade. Just 0:31 after play resumed, Hornqvist received a sweet pass from Sergei Kostitsyn to cut the Anaheim lead to one.

In the second stanza, the Preds got the equalizer on a Cody Franson wrist shot from the point that was tipped in front by Joel Ward.

The Ducks wrestled the lead back, however, when Ward took a double-minor penalty for high-sticking. In the final moments of the man advantage, the Predator killer himself Teemu Selanne made it 3-2 with a deflection in front.

The much-maligned Kevin Klein helped re-tie the game for Nashville with an incredible play. Matt Halischuk just camped out in front while Klein drew the entire Ducks team’s attention by carrying along the boards and around the net before finding the waiting Halischuk for the score.

Then things spiraled out of control.

Despite a Nashville power play to open the third period, Anaheim re-took the lead on a sick backhand shorthanded tally by Corey Perry. Then, just moments later, Ryan Getzlaf sent a laser of a wrist shot up and over Rinne’s blocker to make it 5-3. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Brandon McMillan made it 6-3 halfway through the final period.

Anders Lindback replaced Rinne in goal at that point and that was all she wrote for the Predators on this night. Golden opportunity lost.

The series now turns to Southern California for Game 5 on Friday night. While it’s not literally a must-win for Nashville, you have to assume that if the Preds drop that one, winning two in a row to win the series would be a very tall task.

Don’t forget, as bad a taste as there is in your mouth now, if the Preds manage to win Game 5 in Anaheim, they come back home to play a possible series-clinching contest in Bridgestone Arena.

Puck drops at 9:00pm Central and the viewing parties are LISTED HERE. Come out and root on the Preds with us!

* Hornqvist led all Preds skaters with five shots on goal.
* Blake Geoffrion and Halischuk were the only Preds to finish with a positive rating (both were plus-1).
* Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton, who hadn’t suited up yet in this series, slew-footed David Legwand to give Nashville a powerplay late in the first.
* Legwand got slashed in the second period and, while he returned to action, he didn’t take another face-off until the third.
* Martin Erat left the game after a thunderous hit by Jarkko Ruutu in the nuetral zone. It was deemed an upper body injury and he did not return.
* When the whistle blew with Erat down on the ice, O’Brien had to be restrained from coming onto the ice. He was absolutely furious with Ruutu’s hit.
* Halischuk’s goal was the first playoff goal of his career.
* Cam Fowler‘s tally was also his first career playoff marker.
* In all three games he’s started in this series, Emery has allowed at least three goals.
* Rinne has allowed at least three goals in his last three playoff games. Game 1 was his only standout performance, allowing just a single Ducks goal on 28 shots.
* Carrie Underwood performed with Vince Gill on the band stage during the first intermission. It was her debut performance on the band stage.
* In Baby Preds news, 2009 third round pick Taylor Beck scored his first professional goal tonight in the Milwaukee Admirals’ playoff 3-2 victory over the Texas Stars.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:40 left in regulation):
1) Corey Perry (ANA)
2) Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
3) Cam Fowler (ANA)

1) Corey Perry (ANA)
2) Ryan Getzlaf (ANA)
3) Cam Fowler (ANA)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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