One by one, bodies dropped like flies until the Ducks lost the one that swats most everything away from their net.
Twenty minutes into Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, Ducks goalie John Gibson left with a lower-body injury.
The good news for the Ducks is that Gibson appears to be fine.
Nashville takes a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 on Monday despite the loss of injured centers Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher. Equally difficult to swallow for the Ducks was that their competitiveness did not show in a huge opportunity lost.
“They came out and worked harder than us in the second and third period periods, and that was the difference in the game,” Ryan Getzlaf said.
“I thought we had energy coming out, and it deteriorated throughout the game, so we’ve got to do a better job of maintaining what we want to do with our game plan, because they played hard tonight.”
Gibson did not come back out for the second period and was replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who made 16 saves. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Gibson will be evaluated but added that Gibson said he would be “in” for Game 6.
Bernier could only watch the Ducks’ attack, which couldn’t penetrate Nashville’s blue line. The Predators built a wall in the neutral zone in the third period and got the game winner on Pontus Aberg’s first career playoff goal, at 11:01.
Aberg scored on a rebound as he fell in the slot. Earlier in the game, he fell face-first near the Ducks’ net and said he had to go through concussion protocol.
“I face planted there and lost my tooth, but it didn’t hurt my head,” Aberg said.
The Ducks announced before the game that Rickard Rakell had been scratched and was day-to-day with a lower-body injury, although Carlyle said the previous day that Rakell was fine. They inserted Nic Kerdiles, who made his series debut. Nashville’s makeshift lineup included Frederick Gaudreau in his career playoff debut and Miikka Salomaki in his series debut.
Fitting, then, that Ducks depth player Chris Wagner opened the scoring. He tapped in Brandon Montour’s rebound at 12:46 of the second period following a clean breakout by Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler.
Nashville tied it 1-1 on Colin Wilson’s power-play goal with 41 seconds left in the second. He banked the puck in off the post on a backhand with Josh Manson serving a penalty for cross-checking Filip Forsberg. Moments earlier, Forsberg high-sticked Manson without penalty.
From there, the Predators took over, and the Ducks didn’t have the feet or the energy to reverse it.
“I thought we did it OK for the first half of the game, but then we seemed to run out of gas,” Carlyle said. “We got frustrated with their neutral ice.”
Time is running out to fix it. But the Ducks look at Monday as just the latest challenge in their seesaw spring.
“We’ve seen a lot of adversity,” Wagner said. “It hasn’t been easy for us. We don’t make it easy on ourselves, either. But we seem to be comfortable in the chaos. We don’t have a choice but to win on Monday.”