The Anaheim Ducks were back in Music City for the first time since their season came to an end this past May. And, just as they had then, the Nashville Predators took care of business, beating their 2016-17 Western Conference Final opponent, 3-2, in the shootout.
While Kevin Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok had the goals in regulation — and Kyle Turris has the shootout winner — the story wasn’t the scoring. Rather it was the physicality of the contest.
“That’s their game plan,” Filip Forsberg said. “They want to be in your face all the time and, at the same time, if we stay disciplined, we can get a power play. And we got a big one there by a stupid penalty. They took a stupid penalty at the end and we capitalized with a big goal.”
Look, it’s no secret these two teams have a history. But for a game in December to feel like a playoff game is next level stuff. Then again, Preds captain Roman Josi said it was expected.
“It seems like every game against Anaheim goes that way,” captain Roman Josi said. ” So nothing new, really.”
Nothing new indeed. Saturday night, Corey Perry re-cemented himself as public enemy number one in Nashville thanks to cross checking Pekka Rinne’s head on one play (no penalty called) and launching himself at Mattias Ekholm after the whistle on another (offsetting minors). Nick Ritchie, however, added himself to the storied rivalry by tackling Fiala after his goal.
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) December 3, 2017
In a game this chippy, is it hard to keep your cool?
“You just have to be focused,” Fiala said. “There were penalties here and there for both teams but I think we were focused. We tied it up [thanks to a power play] and then won the game so it’s awesome for us.”
“It’s not always easy,” Josi said. “There’s a lot of emotions and a lot of intensity but I think we did a good job tonight and didn’t take too many penalties.”
Rinne, who had 33 saves in the victory, usually isn’t involved in the physicality of a game but, thanks to Perry, he was on Saturday.
“It’s hard to keep your emotions in check but, for the most part, I feel like I just try to stay in my own head and talk to myself,” he said. “When things get heated, I try not to be the one retaliating. If someone runs me over or bumps into me, it shouldn’t effect my game.”
Of course, Rinne has teammates that stick up for him so he doesn’t have to engage. When Perry cross-checked him the first period, it was PK Subban who had enough of Perry’s antics and cleared him out of the crease.
“Guys do a really good job overall protecting me,” he said with a smile. “I never take it for granted. I know those guys put their bodies on the line. In situations like that, PK tonight and a lot of guys blocking shots, they’re doing stuff for me. I have the utmost respect toward those guys and I feel pretty fortunate that we have character guys like that.”
With the win, Nashville moves to 16-7-3 and remains third in the Central Division with 35 points. They play the Boston Bruins at home Monday.
Video highlights of Saturday night’s victory are below.