x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Predators ambush the Ducks in play-off opener

The 6'5" Rinne and his Nashville Predators are a defensive puzzle that not even the high-scoring Ducks could solve.

ANAHEIM, California // When Pekka Rinne stuck out his gangly right leg just in time to block Teemu Selanne's point-blank early scoring chance with his pad, the Anaheim Ducks realized exactly what they're up against in the play-offs' first round.

The 6-foot-5 Rinne and his Nashville Predators are a defensive puzzle that not even the high-scoring Ducks could solve in their opener.

Mike Fisher had two goals and an assist, Rinne made 27 saves, and the Predators clamped down defensively on Anaheim in a 4-1 victory Wednesday night.

Steve Sullivan got his first goal since mid-December, and captain Shea Weber also scored as fifth-seeded Nashville got off to a great grinding start. The Predators haven't won a play-off series in five tries over the previous six seasons, but their defensive prowess has them up 1-0 on the road for the second straight year.

"That's our game, and you saw how we like it," said Rinne, whose Predators also held a 1-0, first-round lead on eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago last spring. "We like to play solid defensively and then score when there's an opportunity. It's not complicated, but when we do it the right way, we're pretty good."

After taking the early lead on Weber's power-play goal, Nashville put it away with the first three-point game in the play-off career of Fisher, the defense-minded forward who arrived in a trade in February after a decade in Ottawa. Fisher's second goal, on a wrist shot through traffic, prompted Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle to pull former Nashville goalie Dan Ellis with 19:04 to play.

"They're a good offensive team, so we had to make sure we played solid on both ends of the ice," Fisher said. "We want to push forward, and not sit on our heels. When we do that, we can make it tough for even a good offensive team like that."

Selanne scored during a two-man advantage with 8:36 to play for the fourth-seeded Ducks, whose late-season offensive surge was no match for the imposing Rinne and his defence. The Ducks hadn't scored fewer than two goals in their last 16 games, but NHL goal-scoring champion Corey Perry and captain Ryan Getzlaf were thoroughly shut down - often by Weber and Ryan Suter, Nashville's star defensive pairing.

The Ducks' frustration boiled over into 40 penalty minutes in the third period, including three misconducts in the final minute. Perry also repeatedly tried to get his stick into Rinne's pads, drawing Nashville's ire.

"Their whole game kind of takes its toll and gets you out of your rhythm," Getzlaf said. "If we can move our guys around and get out intensity up, that will help. It was hard to get momentum. We gave up that goal in the first period, and we were fighting back the whole time."

RESULTS (home team in CAPS):

WASHINGTON 2 NY Rangers 1 (OT)
(Washington leads best-of-seven series 1-0)

PITTSBURGH 3 Tampa Bay 0
(Pittsburgh leads best-of-seven series 1-0)

DETROIT 4 Phoenix 2
(Detroit leads best-of-seven series 1-0)

VANCOUVER 2 Chicago 0
(Vancouver leads best-of-seven series 1-0)