|JAMES NEAL, Predators|
|BEST IN CLASS — ONE-TIMER|
The conference semifinals got off to a grindingly slow start. Whistles every 10 seconds — or so it seemed. And a mind-boggling number of empty seats at Honda Center seeming to suggest that the playoffs, after a stirring second round, had already peaked.
But in order to accommodate prime-time viewing in the eastern half of the country, game time was set at 6:15 in Anaheim. And when the freeways had finally unclogged and those seats turned into orange jerseys, the opener between the Predators and Ducks picked up exactly where the NHL last left us following two nerve-wracking Game 7s on Wednesday.
For the 24th time a Cup game was ended in overtime. The latest player to be submerged under a tide of celebrating teammates was James Neal of Nashville. His one-timer from upper right circle made it into the net despite a heroic — win or lose — effort by Corey Perry to make it not happen.
The play was set up by Matthias Ekholm, another of the Predators’ offensively-skilled defensemen. Ekholm skated the puck in all the way from the right point and cut across the crease hoping to catch Anaheim off guard. He was successful right until ending up directly in front of goaltender John Gibson, at which point the collection of bodies in front toppled him.
But he got right back up and followed the puck to the left corner. After all the commotion in front, PK Subban was wide open at the left point. Ekholm got him the puck and Subban, whose maturation has impressed from the start of the playoffs, used the reputation of his heavy shot to set up Neal.
With a very convincing wind-up, Subban got the Ducks in front to swing toward his side of the ice. Instead of trying to blast the puck through this phalanx, he deftly slid the puck over to Neal, who was cocked and ready.
Neal’s slap shot was ticketed for the upper left corner of the net with no bodies in front. But then, there was one. Perry unfastened himself from the cluster standing in Subban’s path and made a last-ditch effort to get in front of Neal’s laser. And he did it face-first.
Remarkably Perry’s self-preservation instincts won out and he was spared a year of appointments with the dentist. But he managed to keep his frame upright as his stick flew out of his hands as he (more…)
|COREY PERRY, Ducks|
|10, 9, 8 . . . GOAL!|
|In spite of an uncharacteristically low goal count from Corey Perry this year, the Ducks find themselves in their accustomed spot near the top of the Pacific Division.
Perry, who has a 50-goal season under his belt in 2010-11 and 110 goals over the previous three seasons, has scored just 11 times this season while not missing a game. But, as you’ll see here, his vaunted confidence has hardly been dented. And, in truth, he’s having a very fine season as a playmaker. His 28 assists represent his fifth best total since coming into the league in 2005 — and there’s still 26 games left.
With time running down in the first period against Buffalo, however, Perry determined he was the Ducks best option.
Perry took possession of the puck in the far right corner of the Sabres zone, and he wouldn’t relinquish it until seven seconds later it was in the Buffalo net.
His journey took him all the way behind the end line to the opposite corner, encountering token resistance along the way. Then with six seconds remaining in the period, Perry sliced through the left circle, with two Sabres failing to strip him of the puck. And then a neat little bubble opened on the ice.
Nobody was within 10 feet of the Anaheim right winger as he cruised to the top of the left circle with 4 seconds remaining on the clock. Just as he finally felt some pressure as he entered the high slot, he whipped a hard wrist shot under a leaping Ryan Getzlaf and between the pads of Buffalo goaltender Robin Lehner.
Perry’s tour of the Sabres end of the ice resulted in the only goal of the first period and sparked the Ducks to a 5-2 win in Buffalo.
|2/9/2017 vs. Buffalo.
Highlight available at NHL.com.