NASHVILLE — Explain that one.
Explain how you can tame the tumult of Bridgestone Arena for more than two periods.
Explain how you watch all that work melt away while half your team is playing musical chairs in the penalty box.
Explain how you watch Filip Forsberg, clever and infuriating and always there with the blade at your throat, tie the score inside the final minute and send you toward overtime with your skates stuck in the mud.
Explain the Ducks.
They were staring at one of the most bitter losses in their playoff history, and that’s no exaggeration. They were also staring at a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals. Instead, Corey Perry sent the puck toward the net, where Nate Thompson and Nashville’s P.K. Subban were. Thompson said he didn’t feel it hit him, which meant it bounced off Subban’s stick blade and past Pekka Rinne.
The Ducks won and lost and won again, 3-2 in overtime. It only counts as one victory, but it ties a series that resumes Saturday in Anaheim and has miles to go, and probably three more games, before it sleeps.
“It’s something that this team has done all year,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “I can’t say enough about the way we came in here after that third period. We were calm. Nobody was panicking.”
Maybe the players weren’t. Everybody in orange, back home, certainly was.
The Ducks either dominated or held their own for 53 minutes of Game 4. They led, 2-0. It could easily have been 5-0. In the first period they gave the Preadators two shots on goal and gave away the puck away only twice.
They got goals from Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie. Their chances to expand that lead were enormous and plentiful. Andrew Cogliano and Ryan Kesler had Rinne in trouble on one possession. Josh Manson tried to feed a pass that Ryan Getzlaf would have turned into a certain goal if Nashville hadn’t broken it up.
A promising three-man rush turned into nothing when Brandon Montour passed the puck into Corey Perry’s skates. Obviously that is nit-picking, because all hockey games are full of such imprecision. But the Predators were getting no such opportunities on the other end, not until the Ducks began duck-walking to the penalty box.
A slash by Perry was killed off, eight minutes into the third period. Then Ondrej Kase committed a tripping penalty three minutes later. Nashville began sensing victory, and its power play unit kept the Ducks hemmed in and exhausted. Finally Subban wound up from the blue line and shot just after Kase returned to the ice. It got past John Gibson, who had gallantly fought off all the in-close action, and the Predators had cut the lead in half with 6:27 remaining.
A minute and 10 seconds later, Bieksa high-sticked Forsberg, although he obviously felt Forsberg was auditioning for the Shakespeare Festival. Less than a minute after that, Manson committed a slashing penalty. The crowd came to full roar, looking at 1:31 of a two-man disadvantage. It took a clearance by Hampus…