ANAHEIM — Before the start of the Western Conference quarterfinal series, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle talked about the importance of his role players stepping up against Nashville.
For about 60 seconds Friday night in Game 2 at Honda Center, the third line of Brandon McMillan, Matt Beleskey and Nick Bonino did just that, dominating the Predators in the offensive zone to set up a key goal in the 5-3 victory, tying the series at 1-1.
After cycling the puck and pounding away at Nashville’s top defense pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, the Predators couldn’t get off the ice fast enough to get some fresh bodies in the game.
They didn’t get on quick enough, as Francois Beauchemin passed the puck up to Ryan Getzlaf who was camped out at the blue line. Getzlaf fired a shot at Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne who made the stop, but Bobby Ryan was in position to send the rebound into the net for a 3-1 lead.
It was the first even-strength goal allowed by the Predators in the series and seemed to deflate them less than three minutes after they had cut the deficit to one.
“It was a heck of a shift by three young guys,” Ryan said. “They controlled the pace of the play right through that entire shift. ... They were so tired, five guys had to change. One guy was left out there. It was kind of a freebie for me. I’ll take it.”
McMillan and Beleskey said Carlyle called for his third line when Weber and Suter jumped on the ice.
“We just wanted to wear those guys down so the big guys would have a little more room up there,” Beleskey said. “That’s what we need to do and it looked like it helped them. If we’re cycling and wearing guys down, it’s creating momentum and it’s creating offense for our team. It’s a big part of our game.”
Beleskey is just 22 years old, McMillan is 21 and Bonino will turn 23 next week. Bonino was making his Stanley Cup playoff debut, while Beleskey and McMillan made theirs in Game 1. For Beleskey, his first playoff game wasn’t that memorable, as he committed two penalties in the opening eight minutes, leading to a power-play goal by the Predators in their 4-1 victory.
“We didn’t play them a tremendous amount, but we played them enough that they got a taste of playoff hockey,” Carlyle said. “I thought they did a heck of job for us.”