For years now, the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks have been building quite the rivalry. Nashville defeated Anaheim 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, in what was presumably the most physical game of the year for the Preds.
“It’s a hard game to play,” Preds forward Viktor Arvidsson said. “All of those West teams are hard to play because they are big and heavy, so it gets heated out there.”
“I thought it was a tough game, with hits everywhere,” Preds forward Kevin Fiala added. “It was fast.”
The bad blood between these two clubs dates back a few years, but was taken to another level during last year’s Western Conference Final. Nashville edged Anaheim 4-2, sending them to the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in team history.
“There’s an intensity and physicalness that comes with it,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said about playing Anaheim. “They’re competitive, play hard and they played a hard-fought game tonight. It was harder than we were thinking it might be in the beginning. You’ve got to give them credit.”
“Sometimes you get emotional and it’s hard to keep your emotions in check,” Preds goalie Pekka Rinne added. “For the most part, I just try to stay in my own head and talk to myself. I try not to be the one retaliating.”
There is no secret these two teams do not like each other, and they will both admit that. The two teams combined for 12 penalties, including six in the first period alone. Of those 12, six were roughing calls, one was a cross check and two were a result of a Cody McLeod versus Josh Manson fight.
“It gets pretty heated,” Rinne said. “It gets right on that border of if its fair hockey or not. Those are fun games and you get ready for those. I feel like over the years we have some history with Anaheim. Over the playoff series, it’s gotten to the point where I feel like they don’t really like us and we don’t really like them. It’s set up for a good match and (we had) another one tonight.”
“You just have to be focused,” Fiala added. “There were penalties here and there for both teams. I think we were focused, then tied it up and won the game. So, that’s awesome for us.”
The Preds struck first on a Fiala power play goal, his third of the season. It was also the 13th consecutive game Nashville has scored a home goal on the man advantage. Immediately after the goal, Ducks forward Nick Ritchie hit Fiala from behind.
“I lifted his stick and I think he got pissed about that,” Fiala said. “His stick fell off, I saw the open ice and was calling for the puck, I got the puck and it was a nice play.”
Calle Jarnkrok tied it up in the third period, sending the game to overtime. Following a scoreless overtime period, Fiala struck again in the shootout, followed up by a Kyle Turris goal, giving Nashville the 3-2 win.
“We played fast, faster than them, and we came out ahead of them,” Fiala said.
Nashville hosts the Boston Bruins on Monday at Bridgestone Arena.
1- Kevin Fiala – 1 goal, 22:22 TOI, 6 SOG
2- Calle Jarnkrok – 1 goal, 17:06 TOI, 3 SOG
3- Pekka Rinne – 33 saves on 35 shots, .942 SV%