Ducks take 3-2 series lead after edging Predators in Game 5

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The Nashville Predators put a serious scare into the Anaheim Ducks by winning the first two games of this series. Three games later, the Ducks have the Predators on the brink of elimination.

Anaheim won Game 5 against the Predators by a score of 5-2, going up 3-2 in this series, the first time they’ve been ahead in the first round.

The score is misleading most obviously because the Ducks tacked on an empty-net goal.

(And that’s assuming you’re not really hammering the argument that the Ducks’ 2-1 goal should not have counted.)

Two big areas of reversal

Most clearly, the Ducks have seen a nice boost in net after replacing John Gibson with Frederik Andersen. The big goalie has only allowed three goals in as many games, all wins.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, looks a little more like the goalie who struggled early this season in these defeats. This slippage comes after those two wins where he resembled the Rinne who prompted some optimism toward the end of the regular season.

The other significant flip-flop comes in officiating. Bruce Boudreau called out his Ducks players for taking bad penalties when Anaheim went down 2-0. In the case of Game 5, the disciplinary lapses largely came from Nashville.

The Ducks went 1-for-7 on the man advantage while Nashville was unable to score on three power-play chances. That might not be a huge scoreboard edge of 1-0, yet the Predators were forced to play on the penalty kill for substantial stretches. Corey Perry coaxed consecutive penalties from James Neal, just to name a couple instances of mental errors by Nashville.*

(It’s also fitting that Sami Vatanen‘s key goal came right after he exited the penalty box on a failed Nashville power play.)

Now the Predators find themselves on the brink of elimination after seeing a 2-0 series lead unravel into a 3-2 deficit. A place termed “Smashville” doesn’t scream control, but the Preds likely need to get it together if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

* – Or calls made against the Predators … whatever way you look at it, Nashville ended up in the box a lot more often than Anaheim on Saturday.