Predators continue to get important, unprecedented offense from Fisher

Sunday, April 17, 2011 at 10:52pm

When the Nashville Predators traded for Mike Fisher in February, he instantly became their leader in playoff experience.

Three games into the team’s Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Anaheim Ducks, it’s starting to look as if this postseason could turn out to be a different sort of experience for the 30-year-old who appeared in 75 playoff games in seven trips with Ottawa.

Fisher’s game-winning goal Sunday in the Predators’ 4-3 victory was his third of the series. That’s already more goals than he had in all of his previous playoff years except one. The exception was when he scored five in 20 games as Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.

“It’s always fun when you can contribute,” he said. “Obviously, a big part of that is my linemates [Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn] are playing really well and giving me opportunities to score.

“Overall, I think just winning is so much fun.”

Nashville currently leads the series 2-1 and Fisher has a team-high five points (three goals, two assists). Each of his linemates has the primary assist on one of his goals (Kostitysn made the key pass Sunday), but between them they have as many points as Fisher does.

The franchise record for points in a series is seven, shared by David Legwand and Paul Kariya. Currently, no other Nashville player has more than three.

“He’s been through the wars. He’s been a strong two-way centerman and he can play in all situations,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s proving why ownership allowed us to go get him.”

Tough guy: Fisher got the first fighting major by a Nashville player in a playoff game in four years. The last time any Predators dropped the gloves was April 13, 2007 (a 5-2 Nashville victory) when three separate incidents erupted near the end of the contest.

He was smart enough to go and to serve the five minutes with Anaheim’s first-line center Ryan Getzlaf rather than with a lesser player.

“I’m usually not going to fight unless it’s one of their top guys for sure,” Fisher said. “The timing might not have been the best, but it was one of those things where the emotions get the best of you. It just happens.”

It happened with 3:05 to play in the second period. Fewer than two minutes later, the Ducks had scored twice and tied the game 2-2.

“I didn’t even see how it started, so when they started fighting it caught me off guard,” Trotz said. “… Getzlaf is a solid, two-way guy who doesn’t mind getting mixed up with players.”

Powerful power play: There was a big difference between the teams’ respective power plays during the regular season, but they’ve been virtually indistinguishable in terms of their production in this series.

Each team has converted four times in the first three games — once in Game 1, twice in Game 2 and once in Game 3. The only difference is that Nashville has been shorthanded 12 times, which is four fewer than Anaheim.

“The power play has been converting, and that’s a huge thing for us.” center David Legwand said. “Keeping up with their special teams … that’s a huge, huge thing for us.”

In the regular season, the Ducks were tied for second at 23.5 percent. The Predators were 26th at 15.2 percent.

Getting offensive: For the first time in their history, the Predators have scored three goals or more in three straight games of a playoff series.

Overall, they have hit that number in five straight, which includes the final two games of last season’s series against Chicago.

Nashville and Anaheim have combined for 20 goals (11 for the Predators, nine for the Ducks), which matches 2007 against San Jose for the most scored in the first three games of a Predators’ series.

Quote of note: “We were standing around watching … and we committed some defensive zone lapses as far as coverage. You look at it, [all] four of their goals were tap-ins.” — Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle, on Nashville’s scoring opportunities.

Briefly: Jerred Smithson had the lone assist on Nashville’s second goal, which was scored by Jordin Tootoo. It was Smithson’s first career playoff assist in his 23rd all-time game. … Martin Erat had a goal and an assist and regained the Predators’ career postseason scoring lead from Shea Weber. Erat has 16 points (seven goals nine assists) in 29 all-time contests, which is one-point more than Weber and Legwand. … Pekka Rinne now has four career playoff victories, which is the most ever by a Nashville goalie. Tomas Vokoun had three in 11 contests over two years.