Cam Tucker

‘I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that’ — Ryan Johansen sounds off on Kesler

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The Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks series has turned into a battle of Ryan versus Ryan.

One of the match-ups in this series is Ryan Johansen of the Predators up against agitating veteran center Ryan Kesler of the Ducks. The two could be seen jousting throughout Sunday’s Game 2, with Kesler appearing to catch Johansen with an apparent elbow in the third period.

Following the game, a 5-3 Ducks win to even the Western Conference Final at 1-1, Johansen absolutely sounded off on Kesler.

“He just blows my mind,” Johansen told reporters, just getting started with his rather unflattering opinion of the 32-year-old Kesler.

“I don’t know what’s going through his head out there. Like, his family and his friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”

So … Johansen … not a fan of Kesler. A sign, perhaps, that the latter is getting in the head of the former? It’s a bit awkward considering this:

Johansen still finished the game with a goal and an assist, but with the series heading back to Nashville and the Predators getting last change, it will be interesting to see how much coach Peter Laviolette tries to get his top young center away from Kesler and his antagonistic style.

Afterward, Laviolette was highly complimentary of Johansen’s game, calling his play “excellent” and his demeanor against Kesler “completely composed.”

“Obviously he’s a focal point, he’s a top center on their team but we take the mindset, ‘We’ve just got to be better than the guy across from you,'” Kesler told NBCSN afterward. “If that’s Johansen for me, I’ve got to be better than him then.”

Just something to keep an eye on as the series continues.

Ducks overcome poor start, defeat Predators to even Western Conference Final

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The Anaheim Ducks won’t like their start to Game 2 against the Nashville Predators.

Everything else that occurred from the final minutes of the first period and beyond, however, they will be ecstatic about. The Ducks evened the Western Conference Final at 1-1 following a 5-3 victory on Sunday.

— The power play, which had struggled coming into this game, struck against what has been a red-hot Predators penalty kill since the beginning of the second round.

— They were far more assertive with the puck and on the offensive attack after the first period.

— The Ducks managed to score four goals on just 16 shots through two periods on Pekka Rinne, who gave up four goals in a single game for the first time in these playoffs. Nick Ritchie‘s shot off the helmet of Rinne and in late in the second period counted as the winner.

— After giving up two goals in the opening 8:32 of the first period, John Gibson was much better the rest of the way for Anaheim. He allowed one goal on 23 shots through the final two periods.

— Credit to Gibson for the way he played after the first half of the first period, but the Ducks held on for the win in part because of a frantic goal-mouth scramble in the third period. Gibson and his teammates went flying around the crease to block or stop every Nashville attempt for the equalizer.

Game 3 goes Tuesday in Nashville.

This game also featured quite a few antics away from the puck. Not everything went unnoticed. Ryan Kesler appeared to catch Ryan Johansen with an elbow up high in the third period. Those two went at each other all night it seemed, including being seen chirping each other while lined up, waiting for faceoffs.

Before that, Filip Forsberg caught Jakob Silfverberg with a stick to the nether regions.

Video: Rinne handcuffed by Ritchie shot off the mask

Pekka Rinne entered Game 2 of the Western Conference Final with an eye-popping save percentage of .950 in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

Well, it wasn’t his night Sunday.

With the Predators up 1-0 in the series — and with only two losses all post-season — Rinne gave up four goals on 16 shots through two periods.

He was beat on a slap shot from Sami Vatanen late in the first period, and from there, the Ducks seemed to gain life after a dreadful start at home.

The Ducks scored three times in the second period, including Nick Ritchie‘s wrist shot from near the side boards that glanced off the helmet of Rinne and under the cross bar for the goal (As seen above). That gave Anaheim its first lead of the night, as the Ducks look to even the series before it shifts to Nashville.

Tough night for both goalies, including Anaheim’s John Gibson. The Ducks and Predators had combined for seven goals on 37 shots through two periods.

 

Video: Ryan Johansen leads Predators to perfect start in Game 2

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The Anaheim Ducks vowed a better start in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.

Those words didn’t carry over into action Sunday, as the Ducks fell behind 2-0 during the first period against the Nashville Predators.

Ryan Johansen continued his strong post-season, opening the scoring by beating John Gibson glove side less than five minutes into the first period.

Related: WATCH LIVE: Predators vs. Ducks – Game 2

Great finish from Johansen, but an even better stretch pass from Viktor Arvidsson — a 31-goal scorer during the regular season and in the final year of his entry-level deal with an annual cap hit of just $631,667.

The Predators followed that up with a goal from James Neal right at the end of a power play, taking a 2-0 lead.

Johansen went from scorer to set-up man, as he gave Neal, the overtime hero from Friday, a beautiful pass at the side of the net, clearly fooling Gibson out of position.

That assist put Johansen up to 13 points in 12 playoff games this spring.

Sami Vatanen got the Ducks on the board with his first goal of the playoffs with a minute remaining in the first period.

WATCH LIVE: Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

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The Nashville Predators continued their winning ways this post-season, scoring an overtime victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Friday.

The Anaheim Ducks entered this series only two days removed from an emotional Game 7 victory to end the second round. They will now look to earn a split of the series with the Predators when the two teams meet in Game 2 on Sunday.

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Resilient Ducks vow stronger start to Game 2 vs Predators

Another reason for Predators’ playoff success? A red hot penalty kill

Neal believes Predators can ‘play any type of game’

Predators take Game 1 from Ducks in overtime