NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Corey Perry just keeps finding the net in overtime this postseason, and his third goal in extra time helped the Ducks tie the Western Conference finals at 2-2.
Perry’s shot deflected in off Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban’s stick 10:25 into overtime, and the Ducks snapped the Predators’ 10-game home playoff winning streak with a 3-2 victory Thursday night.
“I was just trying to create traffic or create a bounce and create havoc in front,” Perry said. “And that’s what they say in overtime: You throw it on net, never know what’s going to happen.”
Perry matched Mel Hill (1939) and Maurice Richard (1951) for the most OT goals in a single postseason in NHL history. Perry also tied Teemu Selanne’s franchise record with his eighth winning goal and moved past Selanne for sole possession of second in Ducks’ history with his 36th postseason goal.
John Gibson made 32 saves for Anaheim, which was the last team to beat the Predators in Nashville in the playoffs last spring in Game 4 of their first-round series. The Predators had matched the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings with their 10-game winning streak but missed matching Colorado’s 11-0 playoff run in 1996-97.
Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead. But Subban scored with 6:27 left, and Filip Forsberg tied it with 34.5 seconds remaining in regulation with his fourth goal in four games.
Perry ended the second overtime in the series with a goal originally credited to Nate Thompson. Perry stopped the puck as the Predators tried to clear and shot from the right boards at a severe angle. Subban stuck out his stick trying to poke-check the puck away only to re-direct it past goalie Pekka Rinne.
“They caught a lucky bounce tonight on the redirect that ended up being a difference maker,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
The goal finally was credited to Perry after the Ducks appealed to the NHL.
“I don’t really care at this point as long as it goes in the net,” Thompson said.
The Ducks have matched their franchise record with their fourth overtime win this postseason. They are 4-1 with the lone loss in this series opener to Nashville. They went 4-0 in OT on their way to winning the 2007 Stanley Cup.
Game 5 is Saturday night in Anaheim.
“We thought we were outcompeted last game, so it feels good to take care of business and get a split on the road and now it’s best out of three,” Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said.
The Ducks killed off five penalties, including a 5 on 3 in the third. But the Predators outshot them 11-5 in the third with the late flurry forcing overtime.
Subban scored off a blast from the blue line to revive the standing-room only crowd with Forsberg helping screen Gibson. Forsberg, who started Nashville’s comeback win in Game 3, ensured overtime crashing the net with two teammates and smashing the puck across the line.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” Forsberg said. “I don’t think we showed up in the first, and then after that we played better. It’s tough. They’re a good team. We can’t give them a two-goal lead like that.”
Nashville brought out inaugural American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson as the latest big name to sing the national anthem, and rock group Kings of Leon stirred up the crowd by waving from the bandstand in Music City’s latest show of star power. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also was on hand with a franchise-record 17,423 fans.
The Ducks looked much stronger after a day off Wednesday from coach Randy Carlyle, and they pounded the Predators up and down the ice. Defenseman Josh Manson even checked Rinne against the boards behind the net late in the second period.
They also dominated the play early and caught the Predators in a line change with a long pass to Rakell leading to a slap shot that beat Rinne at 11:30 of the first. It was the seventh goal this postseason for Rakell, who led the Ducks with 33 goals during the regular season.
Anaheim wound up outshooting Nashville 14-2 in the first period thanks to the Predators being credited for a shot during the intermission. It was the fewest shots ever allowed by the Ducks in a period.
The Predators opened the second with a bit more energy, matching what they put on net in the first period within a minute. But Ritchie gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead at 10:22 with a wrister from the right circle, beating Rinne’s blocker for his fourth this postseason.
Notes: The Predators said captain Mike Fisher was being evaluated after a collision in front of his own net late in regulation. … This was the 47th one-goal game this postseason, four short of the record set in 207. … The Ducks previously had allowed three shots in a period in the postseason six different times, the last in the first period of Game 5 of the Western finals May 25, 2015, against Chicago. … Forsberg tied a franchise record with his seventh goal this postseason. … Viktor Arvidsson had two assists for Nashville.
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The NHL could be headed for a record-breaking number of one-goal games this postseason.
There have been 47 through Thursday night, including 26 settled in overtime. Five more and the 2007 record of 51 one-goal games will fall.
“I think just throughout the league it’s so tight now,” Senators winger Clarke MacArthur told The Canadian Press. “Even the best team. You look at Pittsburgh — they’ve got All-Stars, but all the games are just (close).”
Eleven of the Senators’ 15 playoff games have been decided by a goal with eight resulting in wins (8-3-0). It’s not an accident either. Ottawa plays an extremely defensive brand of hockey designed by coach Guy Boucher, who arrived last May.
Boucher’s group was just above average with 40 games decided by a goal during the regular season. Detroit led the league with 45.
“There’s so many good players nowadays that can score very easily or make plays with not much time and space — that’s really what we try and focus on in here is to key in on their good guys and not give them odd-man rushes,” Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman said.
The 27-year-old Hoffman said he thinks teams are trying to limit mistakes against high-powered opponents with simple hockey. Playing careless, he said, means, “you’re going to get pounded. You give teams odd-man rushes the whole game, they’re going to score on a good amount of them.”
Pittsburgh was the highest-scoring team during the regular season, but has mustered only three goals through the first three games against Ottawa. Sidney Crosby, who led the NHL with 44 goals, has one in the series.
“You defend them well,” MacArthur said. “It’s not like the old days where — I don’t want to say they didn’t key on the top players — but you’re keying on the top players now. You’re literally building your shift around keeping them off the scoreboard. I’d hate to be one of the top guys.”
MacArthur wondered if increased speed and fewer enforcers across the league made for more even competition.
“There’s just no bad skaters really anymore,” he said. “They’re used to be five, six guys on each team where you’re like, ‘That guy can’t really move out here.’ He’s more of a shutdown guy or crash-and-bang (type). Everyone can skate now. Every D pairing. Every guy can move.”
Stellar goaltending might also be helping. The collective save percentage so far in these playoffs was .921 through Wednesday, ahead of the .917 mark last season.
Winning the game’s top prize inevitably means winning close games and it’s perhaps not surprising that the team with the most one-goal wins has taken the last four Cups, including Pittsburgh with eight in 2016. Ottawa is the current leader.
“It’s so tight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after a one-goal win over Anaheim earlier this week. “The scores at this time of the year generally are fairly low. And you wonder if 1-0 is going to do it for the night.”
The Ducks won 12 games by a goal when the current record of 51 was set, including three of four against the Senators in the Stanley Cup final.
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