ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The upheaval in the Western Conference continued with the final game of the opening round Wednesday night, the underdog Nashville Predators stunning the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks with a 2-1 Game 7 victory at Honda Center.
For starters, the pressure in this game was already on Anaheim, but the Predators scoring first just heightened that pressure.
Why? Because the Ducks fell behind early in Game 7 to Detroit in 2013, in Game 7 to Los Angeles in 2014 and in Game 7 to Chicago last year. Don’t think for a second that didn’t dance in the heads of the Ducks as the Predators led 2-0 through 20 minutes.
The Ducks threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Predators in the second period, outshooting them 13-6 and spending a ton of time in the offensive zone, but they couldn’t get a goal.
Ryan Kesler, Anaheim’s best player in the series, finally broke through with an early third-period goal on the power play and from then on it was survival mode for the Preds as the Ducks gave it the full-court press for the rest of the night.
But the bend-don’t-break Predators held on, Pekka Rinne was terrific and Nashville in its first-ever Game 7 in franchise history made it a winning effort.
The story on this night was the same it was most of the series: Nashville’s excellent blue-line corps led by Shea Weber and Roman Josi did a superb job at limiting time and space for Anaheim’s dangerous forwards and also limited second-chance opportunities. They also made it very difficult on Anaheim to set up shop in the Nashville crease and get the kind of looks the Ducks are more used to.
What it means: The Predators jump on a short flight north to go play the Sharks in San Jose (Game 1 is Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET). How much juice will they have left after a grueling first-round series?
The Ducks? My goodness. Where to start? Make it four straight playoff years that the Ducks had a 3-2 series lead and lost Game 7 at home. Does head coach Bruce Boudreau survive this? Seems unlikely.
Corey Perry, who had a glorious chance to tie the game in the third period Wednesday night, went without a goal in the entire seven-game series. That’s not going to sit well with him all summer long.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf did not have a very good game, epitomized by his late third-period penalty.
This series loss, this early in the playoffs, will not be acceptable in Anaheim.