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  • The Predators came out flying, taking it to the Ducks and goalie John Gibson throughout Game 1 to earn an overtime win.
By SI.com Staff
May 13, 2017

James Neal’s shot bounced off Corey Perry and into the net at 9:24 of overtime to give the Nashville Predators the win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday.

Neal took a feed from the point after P.K. Subban’s fake shot, sending a one-timer from the top of the circle off of Perry and past Ducks goalie John Gibson.

The Ducks got to overtime thanks to Hampus Lindholm’s third-period blast from the point, beating Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne to even things up at two apiece after Auston Watson and Filip Forsberg put the Predators out in front. 

Jakob Silfverberg opened the scoring on the series, sending a spinning shot over Rinne’s shoulder in the first period.

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For his part, Rinne stopped 27 of 29 shots, while Gibson made 43 saves on the night.

Full recap | Box score | Highlights

Game 2 comes on Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

No rust on the Predators

Despite a four day layoff following their dispatching of the St. Louis Blues, the Predators hit the ice at full speed on the opening period. The 1-1 score at the end of the first didn’t exactly display the dominance Nashville showed, forcing turnovers and turning them into shots—lots of them. At one point, the Preds held a 13-1 shot advantage and finished at 15-6 when the buzzer hit on the first frame.

“They had one day of rest,” Neal said of the Ducks, who played an emotional Game 7 just two days prior. “We were fresh, we had a couple good days of practice. We were good to go.”

Five of those first-period shots came from Nashville defensemen, two apiece from Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, and one from Yannick Weber. It’s no secret that the Preds’ offensive game runs through their blueliners, and they were active in creating chances. They were unafraid to go down low—with the puck or without—giving teammates an open stick or finding another one in the high-danger areas. On the night, Nashville defenseman contributed 18 shots to the cause, including a game-high seven from Ellis.

Gibson comes up big

To say Gibson had a shaky second round series against the Oilers would be an understatement, but he was one of the few Ducks to show up in Game 1. He withstood a 16-shot first period barrage, and then remained on his toes throughout the game, 

He was calm and confident, never looking hurried, frantic or out of his comfort zone, which had to be a relief to his teammates who struggled to really put anything together at the other end of the ice until the second half of the game.

Gibson made possibly his biggest save of the night by sliding across his crease to stone Roman Josi’s blast from the face off dot with the Predators on a two-man advantage in the third, keeping it a 2-1 score. On the night, he made 11 saves while the Ducks were shorthanded, a big reason things didn’t get out of hand while his teammate struggled to get up to speed.

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Jakob Silfverberg is all gold

On a night the Ducks struggled to get much going, Silfverberg was a bright spot. The vaunted two-way forward was a one-man machine in the offensive end: he opened the scoring with an unassisted tally, a puck to the top corner that Rinne never saw on Anaheim’s first shot of the game.

He also did everything he could to will the Ducks into this game, at one point controlling the play in the Nashville zone for 10 full seconds, notching two shots of his team-high five shots. 

Silfverberg set career highs in goals (23) and points (49) during the regular season, and it’s no surprise he’s a big cog in the Anaheim offense in the playoffs, notching eight goals and 12 points through 12 games.

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