ANAHEIM – The virtual silence coming from a dumbfounded sellout crowd of 17,385 told the story, as the Ducks suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Anaheim had victory seized from its clutches on a Shea Weber goal with just 35.3 second left in regulation, and was sunk by a Jerred Smithson goal 1:57 into OT to quiet a formerly rowdy Honda Center. The win gave the Predators a 3-2 lead in the tight series, which swings back to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday.
"We had a couple of mental breakdowns and they cost us big," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "We were 30 seconds away from being in control of this thing. Now we’re fighting for our lives."
Trying desperately to hold a 3-2 lead in the final minute (with the Nashville net empty), the Ducks were devastated when Weber one-timed a shot from the left point through a crowd and over the shoulder of Ray Emery. The goal was set up by a big faceoff win by Mike Fisher over Saku Koivu in the Anaheim end, after which Cody Franson tapped the puck to Weber for the strike.
Nashville appeared to carry the momentum of that goal into overtime, where Jordin Tootoo (seconds after being denied twice in a row by Emery) fed from behind the extended goal line to a charging Smithson, who dumped it into the open net.
"We made a mistake and turned the puck over along the wall," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "Emery made the read, we ran out of position and they found an open guy."
Said Emery, who had 33 saves on the night, "You have to give it to them. They stuck to it. Going into overtime in your own building, you’ll take it. We had a good feeling going in. But they make that play and it’s over pretty quickly."
The crushing defeat took the luster off two Jason Blake scores and an incredible Bobby Ryan goal 40 seconds into the third period that put Anaheim ahead 2-1. After stealing the puck at the Anaheim blue line, Ryan sprinted up ice, making one dangle move on David Legwand (who lost his stick in the process), then another to elude Legwand again before sending a backhand past a lunging Pekka Rinne. Ryan slammed the glass before getting mobbed by teammates as the roof nearly came off of Honda Center.
But the buzz from that goal was quelled a few minutes later when Joel Ward fired a slap shot wide of the net, but got to his own rebound off the end boards to slap it through from the right wing circle and tie it 2-2.
Anaheim went back in front three minutes later, as Teemu Selanne took a hit from Shane O’Brien against the glass and fell to the ice. From his side, Selanne was able to send the puck off Rinne’s leg pad, where it kicked into the slot and Blake fired it top corner.
That made it 3-2 Anaheim with 5:44 left in the game, giving way to a tense final stretch in which the Ducks spent a lot of time in its own end trying desperately to protect that lead. They ultimately were snakebitten by Weber’s equalizer.
In a series in which the team to score first had won each of the first four games, the Preds earned that distinction when Kevin Klein put them up 1-0 at 8:32 of the first. Andreas Lilja got caught pinching in when the Predators took the puck away in their own end. Lilja also stumbled getting back to defend a 2-on-1 in which Tootoo fed in front to Klein for the goal.
"They got that first goal and we didn’t do what we had been doing," Getzlaf said. "We didn’t fall back and let them take off as the series has shown before. I thought we did a great job battling back. We had some big goals from big guys."
For the first time in the series, the team to score first did not also score second, as the Ducks finally broke even on the power play with 6:21 left in the second. A Luca Sbisa point shot was redirected by Koivu off Rinne, who couldn’t hold the puck as Blake repeatedly jabbed at it and ultimately got it just over the stripe for a goal that ignited the sellout crowd. That power play was set up by an O’Brien tripping penalty that Brandon McMillan drew with some deft puck-handling in the Nashville zone.
The Ducks now have to do something no team in this series has done yet -- win two games in a row.
"We have our back up against the wall and a lot of times that brings out the best in guys," Emery said. "We are going into their building and know they come hard there. We have to be at our best and give it everything. We have one shot at it and have to take it."
1:57 - NASHVILLE GOAL - JERRED SMITHSON - Seconds after two straight Emery saves, Tootoo get the puck behind the Anaheim net and feeds a charging Smithson, who dumps it into the open net. Absolute silence in this arena as the Ducks drop a heartbreaker, 4-3.
1:52 - Emery makes two straight big saves on Tootoo.
1:09 - Nashville ices twice within a span of 15 seconds.
0:00 - Here we go in OT.
20:00 - END OF REGULATION - We're going to overtime for the first time in this series.
19:58 - Getzlaf with a wrist shot from the outside of the left circle that Rinne holds with 1.4 left.
19:24 - NASHVILLE GOAL - SHEA WEBER - Preds win the faceoff in the Anaheim end to Franson who sends to Weber for the wrister that dives under the crossbar with 35.3 left and silences this crowd. Heartbreaker and it's 3-3.
19:21 - Ducks ice it with 38.6 left and Nashville net empty.
19:05 - Rinne to the bench.
18:55 - Emery a kick save on Ward.
18:10 - Weber just barely outruns Ryan to touch up for icing with 1:50 left. Timeout, Anaheim. Nervous time, for sure.
15:03 - Emery holds his ground after a Getzlaf giveaway behind the net.
14:48 - Timeout with 5:12 left and the Ducks up 3-2. If you've got a seat belt, buckle it.
14:16 - ANAHEIM GOAL - JASON BLAKE - The goal goes to Blake, but the credit goes to Selanne, who takes a big hit into the glass from O'Brien that knocks him down. While on his side, he somehow manages to sling the puck off Rinne's leg pad, where it rebounds to Blake in the slot, and he wrists it top left corner. It's 3-2 as this place goes crazy again.
11:20 - NASHVILLE GOAL - JOEL WARD - Ward's slap shot from the left point goes wide, but hard off the back wall. He picks up near the right faceoff circle to slap it past Emery, who briefly lost sight of it. We're tied 2-2 as the buzz from Ryan's goal wears off a bit.
9:36 - Longest 10 minutes of our lives coming up.
9:00 - Emery denies Sullivan after a scary giveaway.
7:50 - Selanne and Getzlaf try to play give-and-go on the rush, but can't make it happen.
6:00 - Sbisa pasted Spaling into the glass. Crowd loves it. How happy does this picture make you?
2:45 - Getzlaf gets on a 2-on-1 with Perry, fakes a slap shot from the wing, tries to take it behind the net and loses it.
2:00 - Still can't believe that goal. If you missed it, you can see it on here later, and on SportsCenter, that's for sure.
1:20 - Chants of "BOBBY! BOBBY!" and then more cheers as they show Ryan on the video board with Welcome Back under him.
0:40 - ANAHEIM GOAL - BOBBY RYAN - I don't believe what I just saw. Ryan takes the puck away at his own blue line, makes one dangle move to elude Legwand (who loses his stick in the process), then DOES IT AGAIN to get some room and fire a backhand past a lunging Rinne. Goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by a mile and this place has absolutely gone crazy. It's 2-1 Ducks.
0:00 - Here we go in an absolutely gargantuan third period.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Ducks get one from Blake and we're tied 1-1.
19:50 - Shots are now 18-17 Nashville. Big charge for the Ducks.
18:55 - Ryan is robbed blind in the crease by Rinne, trying to punch in a Perry feed.
17:37 - Parros dives and swings at the puck to send it into Rinne. Crowd likes it.
15:30 - Brookbank gets the puck caught in his jersey and can't get it out, taking a shot from Geoffrion after the whistle.
15:00 - Crowd has come alive, chanting "Let's go, Du-ucks" right now.
13:39 - ANAHEIM GOAL (POWER PLAY) - JASON BLAKE - Sbisa sends the puck in from the left point, and it's redirected in front by Koivu to Rinne, who can't hold onto it. Blake jabs away at it 3 or 4 times before finally getting it under Rinne and just over the stripe. This crowd, waiting for something to scream about, goes ballistic. It's 1-1 for the first time in this series.
13:13 - Selanne's slap shot is held by Rinne, as Perry gets a little too close trying to follow up and flips Weber over in anticipation of being shoved away. Preds didn't care for that.
12:05 - Selanne denied from the slot, as Koivu gets cross checked in the back looking for the rebound. No call.
11:48 - NSH Penalty - Shane O'Brien, 2 min. tripping. McMillan's move in the attacking zone draws the foul on O'Brien. On the delayed whistle, Bonino nearly punches in a Perry feed. Ducks need to take advantage here.
11:10 - Beauchemin's slap shot creates a rebound in front, but no Ducks there to jump on it.
9:50 - Ducks need to make something happen soon. Being outshot 16-8.
9:45 - Bonino tries to feed in front to Selanne, but it's out of his reach as he takes a spill.
7:51 - Another kill, but Ducks can't keep living this way.
6:00 - McMillan with a ton of hustle trying to chase down a cleared puck.
5:51 - ANA Penalty - Cam Fowler, 2 min. hooking. Ward takes the puck away from Fowler and the kid hooks him trying to get it back.
5:36 - Getzlaf circles and throws a backhand on net, and Perry is robbed by Rinne's glove trying to flip in the rebound.
5:03 - Ducks escape this one.
4:39 - After Emery dives on the puck, Perry and Sullivan wrestle a bit near the glass. Neither really wants to take it further.
4:15 - Emery with a nice kick save on Franson's shot through a crowd.
3:40 - Ducks get away with one as Hornqvist misses a wide open net on a backdoor pass.
3:03 - ANA Penalty - George Parros, 2 min. high sticking. Parros may or may not have gotten Tootoo in the face with the stick near the Nashville blue line.
0:00 - Off and running in the second.
20:00 - END OF PERIOD - Rough one for the Ducks, who give up a Klein goal and don't take advantage of their one power play. They trail 1-0.
19:50 - Ryan gets the puck taken away from him as he shoves O'Brien, and he gets a shove to the face back.
18:31 - Miscommunication between Beauchemin and Fowler results in Legwand nearly stealing a goal. Big save by Emery to bail them out.
17:15 - Getzlaf takes the puck away in the Nashville end and crashes in, but Rinne makes a big stop.
16:08 - Ducks look out of sorts on that power play and get off no shots.
14:08 - NSH Penalty - Ryan Suter, 2 min. slashing. Suter gets Perry for the game's first penalty.
12:35 - Emery kicks away a Dumont shot, then watches as O'Brien's rebound try goes wide.
11:20 - A very active Blake crashes in and gets pushed from behind by Weber to dislodge the net again.
10:20 - Bonino is denied on a wraparound try. Good play though.
8:32 - NASHVILLE GOAL - KEVIN KLEIN - The Preds take the puck away in the Anaheim end, sending Tootoo and Klein on the rush. Lilja, who had pinched in at the other end, trips and falls trying to get back, and Tootoo feeds in front to Klein for the point blank goal. It's 1-0 Preds as the Ducks try to buck the trend in this series of the team scoring first winning.
8:20 - Seconds after a nice hustle play by Blake to save the Ducks from icing, Selanne fires a one-timer wide.
6:51 - Emery with a nice stop on a Weber wrist shot through traffic.
1:59 - Ryan looks like he got hit in the hand near the Ducks bench. Looks to sting him a bit.
1:21 - Selanne makes a ridiculous move that sends Blum onto his rear, as Teemu jumps over him before shooting from his knees off Rinne and then sliding into him to knock the net off its supports. Crowd wanted a trip and I don't blame them. This building might have imploded had that puck gone in.
0:00 - And we're underway in Game 5.
7:10 p.m. - Awesome national anthem by former American Idol runner-up David Archuleta, who gets a huge squeal from the crowd when he's introduced, than a loud ovation as he closes out the song. Nicely done.
7:08 p.m. - Huge roar from the crowd when Bobby Ryan is announced in the starting lineup. He's back after a two-game suspension.
7:04 p.m. - Wild Wing drops in from the rafters, getting a rise out of the crowd.
Ducks go with seven defensemen again, with Sutton out and Brookbank in. Dumont replaces Erat for Nashville.