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Ducks Start Slow but Finish Strong to Tie Western Conference Finals

Two days after Nashville won the series opener, 3-2, in overtime, Ryan Johansen and James Neal scored in the opening 8 minutes 32 seconds of Game 2 to put the Predators seemingly in control.

But the Ducks, faced with the prospect of their second straight 0-2 series deficit, finally awakened and responded with high-octane hockey — and a few fortunate bounces — that was too much even for Rinne, who had not given up four goals in a game since March 13.

The Ducks had come back to tie the game twice before Ritchie, who had scored the winning goal in Game 7 against Edmonton in the previous round four days earlier, found the back of the net with an exceptional high shot that appeared to glance off Rinne’s mask on the way in.

Still, Anaheim had to hang on through a frenetic third period, surviving a few mad scrambles before Ryan Getzlaf notched his third assist of the night on Vermette’s empty-netter. The Ducks also got several good saves from Gibson, who has raised his level of play from the first two rounds.

Although Honda Center was much louder than it had been for the opener, the Ducks’ knack for slow starts at home continued.

After Johansen scored on a breakaway just 4:18 in, Neal doubled the lead on a power play with one of the easiest goals in recent history, escorting the puck unimpeded into the net when Gibson completely lost sight of the play.

An ominous and now familiar hush fell over Honda Center, but the Ducks got going in an unlikely way. Anaheim’s power play was scoreless in 21 straight attempts dating to Game 2 of the second round against the Oilers, but Vatanen beat Rinne with a slap shot for his first goal of the postseason.

Silfverberg tied the game in the opening minute of the second period, cashing in Rickard Rakell’s pass on Rinne’s back side for the ninth goal of his…

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