Teemu Selanne was visibly and verbally unhappy after Anaheim's disappointing loss in game three. It's safe to say that his team responded to his harsh words in game four.
After a series that has been almost entirely dominated by the Predators, the Anaheim Ducks came out firing in game four, putting together their most complete performance of the series thus far to defeat the Nashville Predators by a score of 6-3.
The win was Anaheim's first win in Nashville this season, and only their third in the eight times these teams have played.
The Ducks came into Bridgestone Arena knowing full well what they needed to do, and they wasted little time doing it, with Cam Fowler scoring their first goal just 4:41 into the game.
Just 33 seconds after that, Saku Koivu widened the lead to 2-0.
This would continue an odd trend that has formed in this series: the team that scores first in each of these games has gone on to lead 2-0, and has also gone on to win the game.
The Predators would not walk away easily though, as they would twice come back to tie the game—the first time on goals from Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward, and then again in the second period when Matt Halischuck would score his first career playoff goal.
However, the real story of this game has to be the third period.
Despite the period starting with the score tied 3-3, the ultimate back-breaker for the Predators came just 1:17 in when Corey Perry would undress Ryan Suter with a sweet stickhandling move and fire a backhand past a surprised Pekka Rinne.
This goal would open the floodgates for Anaheim who would score two more goals before the end of the game to give the Ducks a comfortable 6-3 win.
Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne was pulled at the 6:46 mark of the third period.
Anders Lindback would stop all nine shots he would see in relief.
The Ducks will definitely be very happy with themselves going back to Anaheim as there was a lot to like about this performance.
For one, they got the start they needed to, scoring two quick goals to set the tone for the game.
Perhaps even more important, is that the Ducks proved they can still win without a key member of their top line, as Bobby Ryan was still out serving the second game of his two-game suspension.
In his absence, the Ducks found scoring from their depth players, including playmaker Saku Koivu and rookies Cam Fowler and Brandon MacMillan.
And perhaps the most important of them all—the Ducks have found a way to crack open the Nashville defense that was such a huge concern after a 4-1 loss in game one.
Since that offensively anemic loss, the Ducks have scored 14 goals in three games against the defense that finished the season allowing a third-best 2.32 goals per game.
However, their performance was far from perfect as well. The first two periods saw the Ducks blow two leads as the Nashville forecheck caused them a load of problems. This included two goals that could be chocked up to poor defensive coverage.
They also are still struggling with getting the puck outside their blueline when they need a line change; a problem that has plagued them this entire series.
For the Predators, there's several things to take note of from this loss.
The Ducks appear to have goaltender Pekka Rinne completely figured out. Anders Lindback stopped all nine shots he faced in relief of Rinne tonight, which raises the question of will he be the Predators goaltender Friday for game five?
Additionally, the Predators need to get back to their game of a tight forecheck lights-out defense.
Nasvhille should not get down on themselves after this loss. It's good to take note of their performance in this third period, but it's in the past and the sooner they move on and start looking to game five, the better.
The series is still tied going back to Anaheim, and there will be a game six back in Nashville, where they have been incredibly dominant this season.
How will the Ducks vs. Predators series end?
Looking ahead to Friday's game five, I fully expect Nashville to come out with a raging fire in their collective gut, meaning Anaheim needs to be ready.
Bobby Ryan will be back from his suspension, but there's no word as to whether Martin Erat will be back for Nashville after he was hit in the second period by Jarkko Ruutu.
This series has been full of teams rebounding from bad losses, so I think Nashville will be ready and will come out attacking Anaheim like they're capable of doing.
For Anaheim, this game may have been a must-win, but their next game now becomes just as important, as they cannot afford to go back to Nashville down 3-2 and facing elimination. Winning in Nashville was difficult enough, and they can't rely on doing it again if they want to get past this first round.
Either way, the upcoming game five has just become easily the most important game of the series.
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