NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Corey Perry had the best regular season of his career. Now the Anaheim right-winger is showing how special he can be in the playoffs.
Perry scored short-handed at 1:17 of the third period to put Anaheim ahead to stay and the Ducks beat the Nashville Predators 6-3 on Wednesday night to tie the first-round series 2-2. Perry also had two assists.
“Special player making a special play,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said of the forward who led the NHL with 50 goals and was third in points with 98. “Very, very fortunate any time you can score a goal short-handed we got to feel pretty lucky. … Corey Perry had the skill. One-on-one he is very deceptive, and the backhand shot went in short side. That’s a big time play.”
Game 5 is Friday night in Anaheim, with Ducks forward Bobby Ryan set to return from a two-game suspension.
“It’s always nice when you get home-ice advantage back, and then you get one of your top guys back too,” Perry said. “It’s nice to have him back. We’ve just got to be ready to play.”
Perry credited Brandon McMillan with creating space for his go-ahead goal by dropping the puck back to him and then going to the net, taking Nashville defenceman Shea Weber with him.
Getzlaf, Perry’s linemate who also had an assist, said Perry’s short-handed goal is evidence of the year he’s having.
“He’s always scored big goals for us at big times, and your big guys got to be your big guys in big games,” Getzlaf said. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s been doing it … all year, and we expect nothing less come playoff time.”
Cam Fowler had a power-play goal and had an assist, and Getzlaf, McMillan, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu added goals.
Patric Hornqvist, Joel Ward and Matt Halischuck scored for Nashville, which blew a chance for its first ever 3-1 series lead.
“All game I thought we were just making major blunders, poor decisions,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
The Ducks blew open a tight game with three goals in the first 6:46 of the third, starting with Perry’s backhander past goalie Pekka Rinne from the right circle. Perry set up Getzlaf’s goal at 4:51, and McMillan chased the goalie considered a Vezina Trophy finalist with his goal.
Trotz said he made the move to give Rinne a chance to rest and regroup. Rinne wasn’t happy with himself allowing Perry’s goal.
“He kind of used the other two guys going across as a screen and just was able to get that by,” Rinne said. “Obviously, that’s a huge goal for them and changed the momentum of the game and obviously wish I could’ve made that stop. But you know that’s in the past now.”
Carlyle made some changes in his lineup, scratching Brad Winchester, Kyle Palmieri and Sheldon Brookbank among others. He played Andy Sutton and Andreas Lilja to add some size on defence along with left-wing Jarkko Ruutu, who had been scratched in Game 3.
The Ducks opened up with a flurry, taking the first eight shots of the game and going up 2-0 after Shane O’Brien went to the penalty box for boarding Todd Marchant. Fowler scored his first post-season on a slap shot at 4:41, and Koivu scored his first this post-season 33 seconds later as he tapped in a rebound of Jason Blake’s shot.
Trotz took his timeout, and his Predators responded with a goal off their first shot 31 seconds later. Weber started the play deep in defensive zone, and Sergei Kostitsyn had a nice cross-ice pass to Hornqvist who easily beat Ray Emery to pull to 2-1 at 5:45.
Rinne kept the Predators in the game in the first, especially killing a second penalty by stopping Getzlaf, Selanne, Blake and Nick Bonino. When he made the final stop, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The Predators lost Martin Erat, who lost four teeth in Game 2, early in the second after a collision with Ruutu near the Predators’ bench.
Erat went down immediately and lay on the ice for a few minutes before slowly rising with help. He went straight to the locker room and did not return with what was called an upper body injury. Trotz said he will know more about Erat’s status Thursday. Ruutu was sent to the box for interference. The minor penalty infuriated the sold-out crowd, which wanted a harsher penalty.
Carlyle defended the play as simply shoulder to shoulder contact a second after Erat had the puck. Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter said the injury hurt the Predators.
“He’s one of our top players,” Suter said. “It was an unfortunate hit. I don’t know what I can say, but it’s unfortunate. It’s too bad that he wasn’t able to come back.”
Ward scored at 5:46 to tie it at 2.
Anaheim got the man advantage for 4 minutes when Ward drew a double minor for high-sticking Blake at the net, drawing blood. But the Ducks didn’t take a shot for the first 1:07, so Carlyle took his timeout. It worked in Game 2 with two quick goals.
Selanne tapped in the puck with 18 seconds left with the man advantage for the 3-2 lead with 8:19 left. Halischuk tied it for the last time for Nashville off a turnover by Sbisa with a backdoor tap-in with 5:45 left.
NOTES: Perry had a career-high four short-handed goals in the regular season, a club record. … The Ducks outshot Nashville, 38-22, for the first time in the series. … Selanne has scored four of his five goals in this series on the power play. … The Ducks improved to 12-6 in Game 4s. … Nashville brought the star power for this game with Jo Dee Messina singing the anthem and Vince Gill singing at the first intermission. He was joined for a song by Carrie Underwood, wife of Nashville centre Mike Fisher. Country singer John Rich also was in the crowd.