David Legwand did not try to be funny. At least it did not seem that way.
There was no gleam in his eye or upward curl of his lip as he summarized the Nashville Predators’ approach to what’s next in their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Anaheim Ducks. Still, it was impossible not to find humor in his take on things.
“Obviously, Wednesday night is a huge hockey game,” the veteran center said. “We have a chance to put our foot down and give them a little stomp there. If we can make that happen, that’s a huge thing.”
Of course, it was a stomp by Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan two days earlier that seemingly played a sizable role in Nashville’s 4-3 victory Sunday in Game 3 before a sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. That put the Predators up 2-1 in the series, which continues with Game 4, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Nashville.
Ryan will miss the next contest as he did this one due to a two-game suspension, which was handed down because he tramped on the skate of Predators’ defenseman Jonathon Blum as the two battled for the puck. League officials classified the act as “reckless and dangerous” when they announced their ruling Saturday.
The 24-year-old was second among the Ducks in shots during the regular season. Without him they managed just 16 for the game and no more than six in any single period. Their total was the fewest ever allowed by Nashville in a postseason contest — by a wide margin.
“That is embarrassing at this level,” Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne said. “I hope everyone is going to be [upset] and learns something from this. … They wanted it more; they won the battles. We were lucky even to be in the game.”
The Predators’ previous mark for fewest shots allowed in a playoff contest was 23, against San Jose on April 17, 2007 — a game they actually lost 3-2. While Nashville never trailed in this one, there were some tense moments.
Mike Fisher got the game-winning goal with 9:39 to play after Anaheim rallied and tied the score for the second time. Legwand’s goal at 5:25 of the final period was answered by the Ducks with a goal from Matt Beleskey 1:23 later.
Selanne had a team-high three shots for the Ducks. He scored on two of them 30 seconds apart in the final two minutes of the second period and quickly erased what was a two-goal Nashville lead.
“[There was] a little bit of frustration,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said of the second intermission. “I think guys kind of beared down in here. We knew we were playing a good game and they just happened to score on the chances they got.
“We needed to keep pushing forward, try to get the momentum back and use the crowd to our advantage.”
The 39-year-old Selanne has scored in every game of the series and has four goals total, the most of any player on either side. His presence guarantees the Ducks remain a threat offensively, even without Ryan, who had 34 goals and 37 assists during the regular season, not to mention two goals in Anahiem’s lone victory thus far.
The Predators had 15 shots themselves in the second period alone and finished with 37, 21 more than the Ducks. Yet they barely came away with the victory.
“If you play good defense, you’ll get some offense out of it — and we did,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We created lots of chances. … I thought we played extremely well.
“… You play so well for so long and something like [Selanne’s two goals] happen and it can really test your mettle and test your character. I thought we responded really well, and I think our team has grown and learned from the last couple years.”
Perhaps — if Legwand is an indication — it even has developed a sense of humor.