Predators success in series might hinge on Game 2 at Anaheim

Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 7:19pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The situation is nothing new. It’s up to the Nashville Predators to do something different.

It was only a year ago that Nashville took the early lead in the Western Conference quarterfinals when they won Game 1 on the road, just as they did with Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

They failed to build on that 2010 triumph at Chicago and when the series moved to Nashville it was tied at one win apiece — but it was not exactly even.

“I thought we had a horrible Game 2 [last year],” left wing Steve Sullivan said. “I thought that we weren’t ready to come out and we didn’t play our best hockey. We allowed them to come back. I thought last year Chicago was looking for a reason to give us the series and we didn’t give them one.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of a different hockey club over here [in Anaheim]. It was a hockey club that was very resilient coming down the stretch and they’re going to bounce back extremely strong and want to get that Game 2 on home ice. So we’re going to have to be very prepared.”

It is worth noting that the Predators won the opener at Chicago last year 4-1, the exact same score as their victory over the Ducks.

They followed that one with a 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks in which they were outshot 33-23 and were shorthanded five times (the most in any of the first five games of the series). Nashville had just 12 shots through the first two periods and allowed a power-play goal in the second, which ultimately was all Chicago needed.

They are undeniably wary of the possibility for a repeat performance.

“We have to clean up a lot of areas,” captain Shea Weber said. “I think we still gave [the Ducks] too many chances. With that kind of firepower, you can’t afford to leave [goalie] Pekka [Rinne] hanging like that. He made some big saves for us and we have to tighten that up.”

Truth be told, Game 2 rarely has been kind to the Predators. They have lost four times in five tries and have been outscored 13-8. Two of the five times they have been shut out in the postseason have been in Game 2, and more than half of their goals came in a single 5-2 victory over San Jose in 2007.

Perhaps that is why Nashville has yet to win a playoff series. History shows that whichever team wins Game 2 (regardless of what happens in Game 1), wins the series much more often than not.

Last season, for example, the winners of Game 2 won 11 of the 15 series, and Chicago was a perfect 4-0 in Game 2s on its way to the Stanley Cup championship. In 40 first-round matchups since 2006, the winner of Game 2 won the series 70 percent of the time.

“We really have to [hit] the reset button [Friday],” coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s Game 2. Get Game 2. … It becomes a little bit of a chess match now to see if we can pick up what they’re to do against us, and we’re going to try to adjust and see if we can take advantage of things we notice.”

The good news for Nashville is that the last time the Ducks had home-ice advantage for a series was the opening round in 2008, when they were the defending Stanley Cup champions. They lost the first two at home that year and were eliminated in six games.

“We just have to keep the momentum going,” Rinne said. “We know it’s going to be an even tougher game on Friday and they’re going to bring everything they have. We just have to respond and not feel too good about ourselves.”