Ducks confident in playing 'simple road game' to end Predators' streak

Anaheim Duck players watch a replay during the second period against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of the Western Conference final in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Nashville Predators are halfway from reaching their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history in part because they do a good job at taking leads and not coughing them up. That’s the challenge facing the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 Thursday night.

Anaheim, for their part, has developed a knack for comebacks this postseason, as they showed in Game 2 when they fought back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to win 5-3 and even the series. According to Elias, that was the Ducks’ sixth comeback and fourth multi-goal comeback in the 2017 playoffs.

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“I guess you would have to credit your players,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. “We’ve tried to always sell that we feel comfortable we can play in any building, first. And we try to establish that early in the season; that we’re going to go in and impose our will on the teams that we played against.

“And we found that when we took on the mantra that we had to be better than we were in the last game, it just kind of relieves the focus of the outcome versus the process: What did you have to do to achieve success? What did you have to do in the game within the game? Was it the forecheck that made the difference? Was it your defensive zone face-offs? Was it your power play or was it your penalty killing? And look at the game that way versus looking at the result.

“And that’s what we’ve tried to stay with that we’re always going to focus on the process first and then the results should take care of themselves. So as you go deeper into the playoffs, there’s a lot more intensity or pressure. But if you’ve done it for 82 games it’s not such as a drastic change. And in situations you have to have your big players make big plays.”

Playing from behind isn’t the greatest of strategies, no matter the number of comebacks you’ve performed. It hasn’t been easy to grab and hold a lead against the Predators, especially in Nashville. The Ducks were the last team to beat them at Bridgestone Arena with Nashville winning 10 straight playoff games at home.

“I don’t know if it matters if they’re home or not, but they’re a super aggressive team. Maybe more so at home when they have the crowd kind of pumping the energy into them,” said Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg. “So they’re playing super aggressive. And it’s tough to play against their ‘D’. They’re pinching a lot. They’re keeping a lot of pucks in and getting a lot of zone time and a lot of times it can be frustrating because maybe you don’t get as much room as you’re used to out there, especially as a winger.”

Nashville did a good job of limiting Anaheim’s high-danger chances in Game 3, allowing Pekka Rinne to have a relatively easy night with 19 saves, while John Gibson faced a constant barrage as he made 38 stops.

Aside from brief few minutes of the third period in Game 2, the Predators have controlled possession in the series and have limited the Ducks’ chances, allowing for Nashville to take and hold on to leads. Anaheim has the confidence that should they fall behind they’ve proven they can claw back into games, but unless they reverse that trend here, they’ll be booking their off-season vacations as soon as this weekend.

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“I think it’s important to first have the belief that you can do it and that you can go into other buildings and kind of quiet the crowd and play. We always talk about a simple road game,” said Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler. “So I think we’ve proven to ourselves that we can do that. I don’t think much carries over from anything that you’ve done previously. But we know that we have the capabilities to do that.

“It’s more just about execution now that we’re trying to really get our game going in the right direction, and we need to do that if we’re going to steal one, because they obviously play really well in that building.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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