ANAHEIM, Calif. — It seemed like an unusual time for a timeout. It turned out to be the perfect time.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle hit the pause button just 4:55 into Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series between the Ducks and Nashville Predators. His motivation was clear — with 35 seconds to go on a two-man advantage he wanted to keep his best offensive players on the ice.
It worked as Corey Perry, the NHL’s top goal scorer during the regular season, converted 29 seconds later for the first of two Anaheim goals in less than a minute. Nashville never fully recovered and fell 5-3 Friday before a sellout crowd of 17,174 at the Honda Center, which evened the series at one game apiece.
The critical third game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday at Bridgestone Arena.
“There’s not a lot of chances that you get for a 5-on-3, and they’re a dangerous club,” Nashville center Jerred Smithson said. “They did a good job off the start of the 5-on-3. They called the timeout and made a few adjustments and found a way to get the puck in the net.
“It was a good call by them and they found a way to get the puck in the net.”
Carlyle said he actually considered using the timeout at the start of the two-man advantage but his players convinced him they were prepared. At the next whistle, he no longer was convinced.
“We needed to settle things down because we weren’t doing anything that we normally do. We were rushing and they had a different coverage than they did the last time we played them,” Carlyle said. “So we just made a bit of an adjustment … and were fortunate enough to get a goal and we got another goal on the second half [of that power play].”
Perry and his linemates, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, were central figures even before Martin Erat and Shane O’Brien were called for early slashing penalties in a span of 48 seconds.
Unlike the opening game of the series, Carlyle made no attempt to keep his top line away from Nashville’s premier defense pairing of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Right at the opening faceoff, he sent Perry and Co. out against Suter and Weber and sent a clear message that his team would not shy away from any of the Predators’ best players.
Anaheim registered the first five shots of the contest, the last two of which came within 1:07 of the timeout and put the Predators in a 2-0 hole.
The matchup was repeated at the start of the second period, and the Ducks’ top line was dominant throughout the night.
“They have good coaches over there and I’m sure they had a gameplan,” Suter said. “Once we got out of the penalty box, I thought we did a good job. We have a lot of good defensemen here, and I don’t know if they’re matching against us or against our forwards, but they’re good players and they want them on the ice.”
Perry, Ryan and Getzlaf all scored goals. Ryan’s first was the most damaging because it came 2:43 after Weber scored on the power play and got the Predators within one, 2-1. His second was scored into an empty net with 53 seconds remaining and finally finished things after the Predators cut a three-goal deficit at the start of the third down to one with 9:43 to play on goals by Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward.
The trio had one point between them and were a combined minus-5 rating in the series opener. In this one they racked up four goals, four assists and a plus-7 rating.
“They got loose on the power play; that’s where they really got loose,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “… They’re a high-execution group, and Bobby Ryan got the one goal on sort of a quick-up.
“I thought we did a pretty good job against the big line for the most part. You put those guys 5-on-3, I don’t think you can put three guys out there [on defense] who are going to have a whole lot of success if you do that too often.”
Give them a few tips during a timeout and they become even more dangerous.