Predators draw first blood in Western Conference Final

The Nashville Predators captured a 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final Friday night at the Honda Center in a showdown that set the tone for what figures to be a grueling and physical series.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead on Watson's first goal of the postseason at 2:42 of the second period.

And this time of year wins are all that matter.

Cogliano's first goal of the playoffs energized the home team and fans, forcing Kris Russell to block Antoine Vermette's shot from sailing into an open net less than 30 seconds later.

Emotional victories in Game 5 and Game 7 over the Oilers have been followed by poor first periods in the subsequent contest.

James Neal played the role of hero when he scored a game-winning goal midway through overtime after the Ducks' Hampus Lindholm tied the score at two in the third period to force an extra session.

"I don't think you can put it any other way: We need to emotionally get ourselves involved in the game right away", Cogliano said.

The Predators have advanced largely on the strength of their stellar corps of defensemen in front of Rinne. Each team executed a four-game sweep in the first round.

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In game seven against the Oilers, Gibson gave up a goal after three and a half minutes. But that one was a hammered shot by Jakob Silfverberg, which rocketed into the right top corner with no chance for Rinne. It's the playoffs, and sometimes calls aren't made, for better or for worse.

The Ducks wearily walked back to their dressing room, just 48 hours after their Game 7 win against the Edmonton Oilers left them hungover at the start.

The Ducks could potentially lose Silfverberg to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this summer.

The Nashville Predators looked pretty good in their first-ever game as Stanley Cup semifinalists.

Just two days after surviving Edmonton, the Ducks had to face Nashville in an early-starting game - and they were promptly outskated and outclassed for long stretches by the well-rested Predators.

"Game 7" may be the most exciting phrase in sports to a lot of people, but not for the Anaheim Ducks, who have lost five Game 7s in a row with stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, including a heartbreaker in each of the last four years. They won't make too many mistakes because Anaheim does not know how to exploit them just yet. Getzlaf's been playing like he's 10 years younger, and that's good news for a Ducks team looking to get back to the Finals for a shot at a 2nd Cup. Caggiula's opportunistic score had the Ducks playing from behind inside the opening 6:19 for the fourth year in a row, but they avoided conceding a second goal in the first 20 minutes unlike their previous home-ice flameouts. Rinne has been spectacular in these playoffs in leading all goaltenders with a 1.37 goals-against average and.951 save percentage. That dates all the way back to the regular season, though. After an exciting second round, which saw every series go at least six games and two go to Game 7, some players have made their mark. Ekholm had a hand in that goal, as he did when Austin Watson tied the game at 2-all. On the flip side, the Ducks had Chris Wagner at minus-8, Jared Boll at minus-6, and Shea Theodore at minus-9 in 5-on-5 Corsi during the game (via Natural Stat Trick). The Ducks are slight series favourites on Sports Interaction NHL odds. The line was held to just seven points in six second-round games after putting up a combined 15 points in four outings against the Blackhawks.

"What can you say about this group?" said goaltender Cam Talbot, the backbone of Edmonton's gutsy post-season run. "So I don't know how many choices they have". "We're not going to surprise any teams anymore".

Goalie performance so far in the playoffs: Forward Viktor Arvidsson has the best description of Pekka Rinne's play, as told to Arpon Basu for NHL.com: "He's been our best player in the whole playoffs so far, making saves that you don't think are possible and keeping us in games".

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