Anaheim came into Game 3 with the momentum on their side, but needed a better start if they wanted a good shot at taking a lead in the series. If you were wondering what was going to happen with the Kesler vs Johansen thing, they were cross-checking each other off the faceoff, so there’s that.
While the Predators had quite a few dangerous scoring chances early in the first, Anaheim did a good job of keeping them outside. John Gibson also looked great from the opening faceoff. A guy who has had a lot of criticism directed his way these playoffs, Gibson has seemed to be able to shut out all the noise and came out ready to play to start Game 3.
The middle of the first saw both teams go back and forth as each team was unable to get any sort of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Anaheim’s now awake penalty kill stuffed a Nashville man-advantage after an elbowing penalty against Nate Thompson. With about 5 minutes left in the period, Nashville got the puck in the zone and really went to work on the Anaheim defense for an extended shift. However, Gibson continued to play well and Anaheim got our of the first tied at zero.
Nashville came into the second the same way they ended the first and really put the pressure on Anaheim. Anaheim killed off an early high-sticking call against Josh Manson but still were on the defensive significantly in the second. Anaheim only seemed to really gain some momentum when Jared Boll (yes, I know) made a big hit on Harry Zolnierczyk. Cody McLeod took exception to the perfectly clean hit and went after Boll. The bout seemed pretty even but McLeod got a instigating minor, putting Anaheim on the powerplay late in the second.
During the man advantage, Corey Perry carried the puck in down the right wing and took what seemed to be a harmless shot as he approached the goal line. Rinne, who had lost his post, seemed out of sorts and hadn’t dropped to his pads. The Perry shot went off the inside of Rinne’s right pad and into the back of the net, giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead.
Anaheim entered the third period with a 28-13 shots on goal deficit, but a lead on the scoreboard. Both teams traded shots early in the third. After a lost faceoff in the offensive zone, the Nashville forecheck forced a turnover behind Gibson. A shot on goal produced a rebound by the right faceoff dot. Then Sami Vatanen proceeded to push Victor Arvidsson on top of John Gibson as Filip Forsberg took a shot. The puck went in and suddenly we had a tie game. Let’s be clear right now, because it will come up later, that this was not goaltender interference. Arvidsson was clearly pushed on top of Gibson by Vatanen.
Shortly after the goal, Anaheim got into Gibson’s grill twice without help. The first, with Harry Zolnierczyk skating across the top of the blue paint, the Predator forward fell on top of Gibson before a shot from the slot found the back of the net. The goal was immediately waved off by the refs for goaltender interference. After a short review, the call was confirmed. Then, on the next shift, Mattias Ekholm drove hard to the net and attempted to go to the backhand. Ekholm skated right into Gibson, taking him out as another shot was put in the Anaheim goal. This was again immediately waved off and Ekholm was even given a minor for goaltender interference on the play. Nashville fans we’re very unhappy with the second call, but that’s as easy of a goaltender interference call as it gets.
Nashville continued to control the pace of play throughout the period. In the end, a late penalty against the Ducks would prove costly. Wagner took a high-sticking penalty in the offensive zone with less than 4 minutes left in the final frame. Nashville was able to pin the #1 PK unit in their zone for an extended period of time. A shot from the point fooled Gibson as it deflected off a Predators forward in front. Gibson didn’t know where the rebound went and Roman Josi deposited what would be the game-winning goal. Anaheim went into the night with a whimper as they pulled the goalie but got no dangerous chances.
Nashville now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Thursday.