Neal nets OT victor for Predators

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. Finish off a playoff series when you get the chance, or you will nearly certainly regret not doing so.

They had a more hard path to the Western Conference final, only knocking out the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7. Nashville had not played since ending its series against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 on Sunday. Rinne picked up right where he left off last season when Nashville eliminated Anaheim from the first round in seven games, but Gibson responded with a second straight superb playoff performance.

Andrew Cogliano scored the tying goal midway through the second period for the Ducks, who had blown a 3-2 series lead and lost a Game 7 on home ice in four consecutive seasons.

To say Gibson had a shaky second round series against the Oilers would be an understatement, but he was one of the few Ducks to show up in Game 1.

"If someone would have told you in September we would get to the second round and push Anaheim to seven games, no one would have believed it", McDavid said. "Got to find a way to get over it".

Nashville got off to a strong start and followed it up with a gritty overtime effort after Hampus Lindholm's first playoff goal in two years tied it for the Ducks in the third period.

The Oilers called a time out with 2:03 remaining, and when play resumed they pulled Talbot and fired a flurry of shots at Gibson.

After beating Anaheim in two previous playoff series, the fantastic Finn and his Predators are looming again in front of the Ducks in the Western Conference finals.

Though Anaheim struck first, the first period belonged to Nashville. They fell behind the Oilers just 3:31 into this seventh game, but the rest of the night largely belonged to Anaheim, which finally showed some veteran mettle in the playoffs' biggest crucible. Ryan Johansen, Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson did combine for three points and eight shots, but Johansen racked up an assist on an extended shift with another line and Forsberg's goal came against Antoine Vermette's line.

Staying within striking distance gave Anaheim the confidence to respond.

"Pekka has been great since the first game of the playoffs against Chicago", Neal said. We have something here in Edmonton that we can look forward to.

"We were down 1-0 for a little bit, and we didn't panic", Ritchie said. He has only scored once himself in the playoffs, but his best work was done in the defensive end in keeping Connor McDavid in check. His shot hit Ducks forward Corey Perry on the right arm as he slid for a block, and the puck went over Gibson for the game-winner.

On Tuesday, the Oilers sold 18,000 tickets in two minutes to fans who wanted to watch the game on the giant scoreboard at Rogers Place.

Brenden Dillon, San Jose: Solid playoff run with 1 assist, plus-1 in six games on third pairing. "We just came up short".

"Obviously it's going to take some time to get over it".

This was the first game seven for the Oilers franchise in more than a decade and coach Todd McLellan said he liked the way his players competed. "We won't have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice".

"We know we haven't done anything yet". I'm proud to be part of this group this year. It will simply be a question of how quickly Edmonton learns the lessons of this series.

"It's something we haven't done before", said the 34-year-old Rinne, the team's longest-tenured player.

"I've got to believe that (the momentum from Game 6 is) going to roll over, that they're finally sick and exhausted of hearing that they haven't gone to the third round and will break through", Boudreau said.

  • Julie Sanders