Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
The Anaheim Ducks knew they would have to steal one in Nashville to have any real chance of making the Stanley Cup Final.
Leave it to John Gibson and Nate Thompson to ensure that happened.
Thompson scored a game-winning goal off a deflection in overtime, giving the Ducks a 3-2 win over the Predators in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. The best-of-seven series is tied 2-2 heading back to Anaheim.
Thompson’s goal came after the Ducks blew a 2-0 lead late in the third period and is just his third of the postseason. It also wasn’t necessarily a goal of his doing, coming off a shot attempt from Corey Perry, who recorded the assist. The shot appeared to also potentially go off Predators defenseman P.K. Subban’s stick.
Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs commented on the goal:
Tyler Skaggs @TylerSkaggs37
Victory!!! @AnaheimDucks hell of a game! @NateThompson44 atta baby!
5/19/2017, 3:26:18 AM
Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie also scored goals for Anaheim, while Gibson made 32 saves on 34 opportunities.
The Ducks controlled the game’s pacing early on, outshooting Nashville 14-2 in the first period and were aggressive from the outset. Rakell scored his seventh goal of the postseason at the 11:30 mark in the first, taking advantage of a line change to slap a wide-open shot past Pekka Rinne. Cam Fowler found Rakell just barely onside as both teams were hustling their way to the bench, and the Nashville defenders failed to scramble back on time.
The NHL on NBC feed provided a snapshot of the goal:
NHL on NBC @NHLonNBCSports
Rakell with the opposite of a feathery touch here, an absolute blast! #StanleyCup
Watch online: https://t.co/7KHLammMtl https://t.co/OFyVZhP116
5/19/2017, 12:38:32 AM
Chip Lehman of KROQ celebrated the goal:
Yes!!! More of that please!! What a snipe by Rakell #anaheimducksgoooaaalll #PaintItOrange
5/19/2017, 12:33:23 AM
Ritchie extended the lead to two goals around the halfway point of the second period after assists from Thompson and Sami Vatanen. Ducks defensemen assisted both of Anaheim’s early goals, which Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times noted:
Helene Elliott @helenenothelen
Ritchie from Thompson and Vatanen. Defensemen have assisted on both Ducks goals. Fowler set up the Rakell goal in the 1st period.
5/19/2017, 1:24:43 AM
Of course, the Ducks were far from out of the woods. Subban, who minutes earlier had served a two-minute penalty for an elbow of Rakell, scored his second of this postseason with a goal at the 13:33 mark of the third period.
John Shannon of SportsNet highlighted how the Predators defensemen have also been strong this postseason:
John Shannon @JSportsnet
Another goal from a DMan for the Preds…
Ellis has 4
Josi has 5
Subban now has 2.
37 points in 14 Games from blue line.
5/19/2017, 2:36:36 AM
The game’s tensest minute-and-a-half came when Kevin Bieksa and Josh Manson both drew penalties within 29 seconds of one another to give Nashville a five-on-three advantage. Gibson made a series of clutch saves, and the defense held a disciplined front to surprisingly kill the penalty—a kill that seemingly wrapped things up for an Anaheim win.
The Predators had other ideas.
Playing with an empty net, Filip Forsberg forced a dribbler past Gibson in front of a crowded net with under 35 seconds remaining to tie it up. Thomas Willis of the Predators’ website got a quote from Forsberg after the game:
Thomas Willis @TomAWillis
Filip Forsberg: “It’s the playoffs, you have to move on quickly. Game 5 on Saturday is a big game.” #Preds #ANAvsNSH
5/19/2017, 3:31:26 AM
The Ducks have now reclaimed home-ice advantage and should be considered a favorite to make the Stanley Cup Final. That said, this was a game Nashville could have won if it got off to a better start.
The Predators had a 10-shot advantage over the final two periods and overtime. And with three of the first four games of this series being decided by one goal, anything can happen when the things shift back to California on Saturday.