If Anaheim Ducks General Manager Bob Murray wanted to reduce the number of penalties when he publicly charged the Nashville Predators with diving in order to get calls, he failed.
Four games into the Western Conference quarterfinal series between the teams, penalties remain central to the story line.
In fact, as many power plays as in any of the previous three contests (11) were awarded Wednesday, and both sides continued to take advantage of such opportunities.
However, the decisive moment came when Anaheim’s Corey Perry scored shorthanded at 1:17 of the third period. That touched off a string of three Ducks goals in a span of 5:29. That prompted coach Barry Trotz to pull goalie Pekka Rinne and ultimately sent the Predators to a 6-3 defeat before a sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.
The series now returns to Anaheim tied at two games apiece. Game 5 is Friday.
“They scored the [shorthanded] goal and it ended up being a huge goal for them,” Rinne said. “… Going into the third, we still had a chance to bring this game home. Personally, and as a team, we have to be better.”
Nashville never led but twice rallied to tie. First it came back from an early 2-0 deficit. Then the Predators answered Teemu Selanne’s go-ahead goal (on the power play) with one by Matt Halischuk fewer than three minutes later, at 14:15 of the second period.
Anaheim did have the first eight shots of the contest and finished with a 38-22 edge in that department. In fact, Nashville had as many shots (three) in the decisive third period as the Ducks had goals.
“I don’t think a lot of our top guys played that well,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We had a limited number of guys that I thought were really on top of their game.”
The penalties continued to add up, though.
Between them, the Predators and Ducks have combined for 29 goals in the four games, an average of 7.5 per contest. Anaheim currently is second and Nashville is fourth in goals per game during this postseason.
Each side has scored with the man-advantage at least once in every game, and 11 of the goals have been on the power play — six for Anaheim, five for Nashville.
Perry’s was the first shorthanded goal of the series.
“A special player making a special play,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “We’re very fortunate. Anytime you can score a goal shorthanded you have to feel pretty lucky.”
It happened with 11 seconds remaining on a delay of game penalty to Nick Bonino, which was the last of five penalties called against the Ducks. The Predators were whistled for seven, capped by a 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct assessed to Jordin Tootoo with 1:48 remaining.
The second period opened with Anaheim on a power play, and the third began with Nashville on that fateful advantage.
“We’re a flow kind of hockey club,” Predators left wing Steve Sullivan said. “We thrive when we’re able to roll lines right over the boards. Guys keep going over and keep the play going and keep the momentum going. When we keep going to the penalty box, it kills the momentum of our team.”
Murray felt his team was being penalized too often throughout the first three games of the series and that Nashville’s players were being rewarded for embellishment.
The Ducks were shorthanded five times in this one, just as they had been in two of the previous three. In the other game (Game 2), they were a man short six times.
The difference was that this time they got a shorthanded goal.
“There wasn’t much flow,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “When we’re at our best, we’re getting pucks in their end and we’re establishing a forecheck, getting a lot of shots on net and creating a lot of chances. When there is a lot of power plays, it definitely kills the flow of the game.
“… We just never really had it [Wednesday] night.”