A few moments after James Neal crumpled Anaheim’s Brandon Montour with a vicious check, the Nashville forward took a pass from P.K. Subban and ripped a shot past three Ducks for the winning overtime goal.
Even in uncharted territory for this franchise, the Predators are still rolling through the Stanley Cup playoffs with their distinct combination of smash and flash.
Neal scored 9:24 into OT, Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Predators kicked off their first appearance in the Western Conference finals with a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson scored in regulation for the Predators, who improved to 9-2 in this NHL post-season. They also won their third straight series opener on the road, continuing their month-long run of relentless post-season play.
“It shows a lot of character,” Rinne said. “All night, we had a lot of chances and we didn’t give them a lot. … I thought that we created a lot, and eventually we were going to get one by him. I thought [Ducks goalie John] Gibson played a strong game tonight, but guys stuck with it. We’ve been doing that the whole playoffs. It’s a great sign for a team.”
Game 2 is Sunday night.
After finishing off St. Louis in the second round last weekend and resting while the Ducks laboured through seven games against Edmonton, Nashville capitalized on its fresh legs to win a predictably physical game between two hard-hitting powers.
Nashville got off to a strong start and followed it up with a gritty overtime effort after Hampus Lindholm’s first playoff goal in two years tied it for the Ducks in the third period.