Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, top, celebrates with his teammates after scoring… (Christina House / For The…)
The Ducks spent every waking second sending their regrets for not showing up for their Stanley Cup playoff opener Wednesday.
"When you work so hard for long to get in [the playoffs], like we did, there can be a little letdown," center Ryan Getzlaf said.
The cliches oozed after losing to Nashville. The hows and whys had the proper mea culpa feel.
"That first game was too much individual," defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky said. "We got to the third period and everyone started thinking, 'What can I do?' You need to think, 'What can we do?'"
Words cleansed the conscience. Actions tied the series.
The Ducks' best post-loss statement was the first six minutes of Game 2. When that one-way conversation was done, the Predators were on their heels and the Ducks were on the path to a 5-3 brow-dabbing victory at Honda Center.
"We came out ready to play," Getzlaf said. "We changed the momentum right off the hop."
They did have to sweat out the final minutes after Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward scored third-period goals. Bobby Ryan's second goal, into an empty net, made those moments forgettable.
"You never critique a win," Getzlaf said.
Only losses, and the Ducks did enough of that after the opener. But ghosts of Game 1 were exorcised quickly.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stumped the Ducks on Wednesday. They put six shots on him, with goals by Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, in the first six minutes Friday.
Ducks goaltender Dan Ellis was somewhat shaky in the opener. Ray Emery started Friday and was on more solid footing, even when he was sprawled on the ice making saves.
The Ducks, mesmerized by Nashville's hypnotizing meat-grinder style the last time out, dared the Predators to skate with them Friday. That paid off when Getzlaf sent a puck on net from the blue line and a streaking Ryan tipped it in for a 3-1 lead in the second period.
"We got up and took the tone to them," Getzlaf said.
After two games, both teams came away with some satisfaction. The Predators got a split. The Ducks got a sigh of relief before heading off to Nashville for Game 3 on Sunday.
"We had to go there 1-1," Perry said. "If we were 0-2, we'd be in trouble."
Emery's last first playoff start was in Anaheim, when he helped Ottawa reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. It wasn't a pleasant experience. He gave up six goals on 18 shots and watched the Ducks skate around the ice with the Cup.
This time, he got to participate in a postgame Ducks celebration, after an acrobatic act that produced 31 saves.
"There is a lot of pressure in any playoff game," Emery said. "You can't be anxious. You can't let other thoughts into your head. You have to focus."
A quick lead put all the Ducks at ease.
Nashville had the second-fewest penalty minutes in the NHL this season. Yet the highly disciplined Predators were guilty of schoolboy-like mistakes early, which gave the Ducks a two-man advantage four minutes into the game.
The Ducks converted twice, once on a Perry one-timer. The other came on a kind ricochet off a skate and onto Selanne's stick. He chipped in his 37th career playoff goal for a 2-0 lead 38 seconds after Perry's score.
"Every playoff game is do-or-die," Getzlaf said. "You have to go into it thinking that way."