Ducks suffer crushing 4-3 loss in overtime to Predators

Nashville's Jerred Smithson slid down the slot, between two Ducks players, and was there to make even Teemu Selanne stray momentarily from his relentlessly optimistic path.

"That was tough to swallow," Selanne said after Smithson's goal turned the Ducks' near-victory into 4-3 overtime loss to the Predators on Friday at Honda Center.

Smithson's goal, 1 minute 57 seconds into overtime, came after Nashville had tied the game with only 35 seconds left in regulation on a goal by defenseman Shea Weber.

Now, Nashville is on easy street, or at least easier street, with its victory reducing the NHL first-round playoff series to simple statements.

For the Predators, it's win and polish off the series. For the Ducks, it's win or polish up the golf shoes.

Nashville can close things out Sunday at home. The Ducks, traditionally, have been difficult to close out, with an 8-6 record in elimination games.

"We have to go into a hostile building and win one there," center Ryan Getzlaf said.

The game plan?

"Regroup," Getzlaf said.

That seemed the Predators' blueprint as the clock wound down in regulation.

Two goals by Jason Blake and a did-he-just-do-that goal by Bobby Ryan had the Ducks leading, 3-2, with time running out.

Then the Ducks iced the puck.

Nashville's Mike Fisher won the faceoff.

Then Weber sent a shot through traffic that tied the score with 35 seconds left.

"We were 30 seconds from control of the series," Getzlaf said.

Instead of that firm grasp, the Ducks could only gasp.

Selanne, whose scolding after a Game 3 loss brought the Ducks back, had the buck-boys statement after this one.

"There is a reason it's a best-of-seven series," Selanne said. "This is all about bouncing back."

The Predators did, tying the score, then winning it when Jordin Tootoo patiently waited with the puck behind the net for Smithson to make his move.

"You talk about Predator-type player, Smithson is it," Nashville Coach Barry Trotz said. "He comes to work every game and gives us those intangible-type of minutes. It's fitting that he scored that goal."

Blake's two goals had the Ducks on the verge of control. But it was Ryan's that people will remember.

Ryan stole the puck at the Ducks' blue line and then danced around Nashville's David Legwand twice. The coup de grace was a nifty back-hander that left goaltender Pekka Rinne flat-footed and broke a 1-1 tie 40 seconds into the third period.

It was an I'm-back moment for Ryan, who sat out the last two games after being suspended for stomping on the foot of Jonathon Blum.

"'Agonizing' is probably the best word for it," Ryan said of the two games he sweated out watching from above the ice.

"It was very tough watching the guys go off the ice [at the morning skate] and I was still out there skating when I would normally be getting ready for the game."

The Ducks' Jarkko Ruutu, who has averaged six minutes in playing only two of the four previous games in the series, served a one-game suspension for leveling Nashville's Martin Erat on Wednesday.

But the tradeoff was good for the Ducks, who merely lost a pot-stirrer while the Predators lost a point-producer. The Ducks, meanwhile, added a point-producer in Ryan, who had two goals in Game 2.

"He produces offense," the Ducks' Saku Koivu said. "That's a huge lift getting him back."

Now the Ducks are seeking another big lift, in Nashville on Sunday.

"It's not like we haven't been in this position before," Selanne said. "We have another opportunity Sunday."

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