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There’s nothing terribly surprising about the Anaheim Ducks beating the Nashville Predators on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena to even the Western Conference final at 2-2.

But it was a surprisingly terrible night for the home team. Until it became an incredibly stirring night. Until it ended like this – Anaheim’s Corey Perry flipped a shot that hit P.K. Subban’s stick and redirected past Pekka Rinne with 9:27 left in overtime to win 3-2, sucking a frenzy out of Bridgestone Arena that peaked when Filip Forsberg tied the game with 34.5 seconds left in regulation.

At that point, there was no way the Predators were going to lose. Until they did, in a cruel and fluky way.

“They threw one in and it went off my stick and in — tough one,” said Subban, who started the comeback with a slap shot past John Gibson with 6:27 to play in regulation.

“Well, I’ll take it,” Perry said, and now we have a new series, tied up by a team that frankly deserves to be in this position based on the way they carried the play for the majority of a desperation game for them.

Thursday featured the worst period of hockey the Predators have played since long before this dreamy postseason began. They were outshot 14-2 in the first 20 minutes, and outhustled, outskated, out-toughed, out-executed in the faceoff circle – put “out” in front of any positive sports verb you can produce and it will work here.

“We were on our heels,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “They were quicker. They were first everywhere, more physical. And that usually dictates the play.”

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The Predators responded and threw everything they had at Gibson in the final 30 minutes of the game, and when Subban finally got a slap shot past him, another frantic finish in front of another uproarious Bridgestone crowd was assured.

Gibson stood tall through 91 seconds of a two-man advantage, and it was all but over when Forsberg – Mr. Clutch, Mr. Magic, Mr. May, whatever you want to call him – jammed home a rebound to tie.

Viktor Arvidsson, who assisted on the Forsberg goal, was asked after the game if a victory felt like fate that at that point and he said: “Of course.”

The Predators had several chances in the extra session, too. The Ducks badly needed to collect themselves. The fact that Gibson and his teammates found a way out of Nashville with the victory may owe some thanks to luck but is ultimately a credit to them.

“We have a sense of calmness and we have the ability always to regroup,” said Gibson, who stopped 32 of 34 shots while counterpart Pekka Rinne stopped 33 of 36.

This was a streak breaker, a mystique buster, a sample of hockey that leaves the observer pondering a change in flavor. This thing has swung back to the Ducks, their home-ice advantage restored in a best-of-three situation that resumes Saturday at their Honda Center.

Bridgestone, which housed and aided 10 straight postseason wins entering Thursday, emptied quietly for the first time in a long time. In playoff terms, for the first time in more than a year, since the Ducks beat the Predators in Game 4 to tie a first-round series Nashville eventually won in seven.

But see, this is what the Ducks do. This is why they’re in the Western Conference final, and why it’s a series that will produce a worthy challenger for the Stanley Cup.

Beat them in overtime in Game 1 and smack them with two early goals in Game 2? They’ll turn things around with a second-period flurry and win.

Come back with two third-period goals to beat them 2-1 in Game 3? They’ll find a way in Game 4 – raucous Bridgestone atmosphere be darned.

It was better than the team it cheers, though the Predators’ effort was supreme after the deficit reached 2-0. Our temptation is to ask the Predators what went wrong, and why, and how they can get back to playing their game. But usually at this time of year when a team doesn’t play its game, it’s because the other team didn’t allow it to do so.

The Ducks were great Thursday, and Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie got high shots past Rinne, a strategy that has served Anaheim well in this series.

Randy Carlyle’s team has the only defensive corps in the league that can approach Nashville’s in terms of young, versatile talent. And his team has been masterful at coming back all postseason. The Ducks were down 2-0 after two home loss to Edmonton, but won four of five games to take the series.

The Ducks have four multi-goal comebacks just in this postseason, including an incredible late revival from a 3-0 deficit against Edmonton in Game 5 to eventually win that game.

Then they got destroyed 7-1 in Game 6 and won Game 7. They don’t stop. That’s not how they’re built.

In the next few days, we’ll find out a lot more about the inner workings of these Predators. Keep in mind that if Nashville wins this first-ever conference final to reach its first-ever Stanley Cup final, that will be three series victories in this postseason – matching the all-time franchise total entering this postseason.

This is new territory, rare air, and the idea of strolling to the last round seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it? The Predators are going to have to win another one in Anaheim, at least one, and that doesn’t seem promising at this moment. Don’t be fooled into overreacting and thinking it isn’t possible.

“We’ve got to win a game,” Subban said. “We’ve got to go in their building and win one. We’ve done it before and we’ve got to do it again.”

Great series between great teams often feature wild swings in performance and perception. There is no clear read on where this is going, except that the winner of the East is going to have a heck of a time with the winner of the West.

Contact Joe Rexrode at jrexrode@tennessean.com and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.