ANAHEIM, Calif. — With Patrick Eaves injured and Corey Perry continuing to be a shell of his former goal-scoring self, someone not named Ryan Getzlaf would have to start scoring if the Anaheim Ducks had any chance at beating the Nashville Predators.
Sure veterans Sami Vatanen and Jakob Silfverberg chipped in a goal each, but it was two of the youngest Ducks who’d have the biggest impact in Anaheim’s Game 2 victory.
As seems to be the norm now, the Ducks don’t start playing hockey until at least 15 minutes have past in the first period. The Predators were leading 2-0 when Ondrej Kase, one of three 21-year-old Anaheim players in the lineup, drew a tripping penalty on Matt Irwin.
The Ducks power play was abysmal having last scored on April 30 in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers. They finally broke through when Vatanen blasted a shot past Pekka Rinne.
“We haven’t scored many goals on the power play so far, but let’s hope the ketchup bottle is open now and we can keep scoring,” said Vatanen, alluding to fellow countryman Teemu Selanne’s favorite metaphor.
Jakob Silfverberg gave the Ducks the lead 39 seconds into the second period. He followed it up minutes later with a turnover to Viktor Arvidsson who connected with Filip Forsberg to tie the game.
Randy Carlyle started to shift his lines around. Kase replaced Perry on a line with Getzlaf and 21-year-old Nick Ritchie.
“One thing that’s been consistent with him, he’s been a type of energizer bunny, can play with pace, can make plays in small areas, can create space for himself, and he’s not afraid to go into those areas,” said Carlyle.
“So we think that moving him up and down in our lineup gives us some flexibility, because he’s a fearless player for his size. And he goes into the areas and can make plays with good players.”
It was a strange first playoff goal for Kase. One he wasn’t sure he scored.
For the first time perhaps all year Kase was faced with a mass of reporters at his stall after the game. The native of the Czech Republic is still working on his English. He grinned ear to ear as he described what happened.
“Nick Ritchie said ‘Goal!’ and I start [celebrating],” said Kase. “I was happy that it was a goal.”
Picking up assists on the goal were Getzlaf, and the other 21-year-old, defenseman Shea Theodore.
“I think he’s learning on the go here,” said Getzlaf on Kase. “And he’s playing a lot better every game. He’s earning his ice time for sure. Nothing is given to him on this team.
“We need guys to step up and play. And Kase has done a great job at moving his feet, getting in on the forecheck and being hungry on pucks … working off me and Ritchie here, that helps a lot for us.”
What would stand as the game-winner came late in the second. This time it was Ritchie off the rush. He fired a puck from the side boards and it beats Rinne up high.
“He’s obviously a butterfly goalie that goes down on most shots,” said Ritchie of his goal. “I think I got lucky and got the puck up there.”
Facilitating on the play was Getzlaf. The Ducks captain picked up assists on the goals by Ritchie and Kase plus the empty netter by Antoine Vermette to seal the win at 5-3.
When he is truly focused, Getzlaf is one of the best playmakers in the game. He has the ability to make pretty much anyone who plays with him better.
“There’s a few minor adjustments that I make, depending on who I’m playing with, whether it be [Corey Perry] or [Rickard Rakell] or these guys,” said Getzlaf. “I know when these kids come up and they’re going to play, they’re going to go hard. So I’ve got to get the puck down lower, skating down the wings, those kind of things.”
“These kids.” Getzlaf turned 32-years-old on Wednesday. (NO! YOU FEEL OLD!)
Getzlaf continued, “These guys are all playing, they’re all great players, they’re here for a reason. I try and work off them as best I can. And we’ve been getting some results.”
The Ducks are battered and tired, as are the rest of the final four. The fresh legs of the ‘kids’ will be a huge help if they can continue to add to the team’s success.
After handing the Preds their third loss of the postseason, the Ducks head to Nashville with the series tied at 1-1.
Game 3 is on Tuesday at 8:00pm EST.