Last updated on April 29th, 2016 at 10:49 am
About time,” said a super excited male fan on the way out of Bridgestone Arena this past Monday night. The Nashville Predators finally won a home playoff game, a do or die one at that.They won the first two on the road; dropped the next two at home; lost a competitive Game 5 on the road; and at last won their final home game in the series with a final score of 3-1. The pressure in this series has now shifted back to the Ducks with Game 7 on tap, a first in the history of the Predators. “It is what it is,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. The only other Game 6 Nashville won came in 2011, when clinching the franchise’s first postseason series win, guess who they beat? Anaheim.
The Preds head to the Honda Center in Anaheim for the deciding game, and they’re playing with house money. Very few thought they’d be in this position. They’re also fully aware of Anaheim’s recent past involving Game 7s. In 2013 the Ducks had a 3-2 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings, they lost. They had the same 3-2 lead over the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, they lost. Last year it was a repeat cycle versus the Chicago Blackhawks, lost. To top it all off, they lost all three series at home in Game 7. This is brand new territory for the Predators. For the Ducks, it’s an all-too-familiar setting they wanted so badly to avoid. “We’re looking forward to the game,” stated Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau.
For the Preds to pull off a series upset, they’ll need the kind of performance from their goalie that they got in Game 6. Pekka Rinne had been outplayed by Frederik Andersen ever since the Ducks goalie replaced John Gibson for Game 3. “We’ve played three really strong games in Anaheim,” Rinne said. In order to finish off the Ducks, the Preds better add a little more sauce to the sizzle, because Anaheim will be ready. “I don’t think there’s anything better than a Game 7 when everything means something,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette was quoted as saying.
With their season on the line, coach Laviolette decided to move Filip Forsberg up on the top line with Ryan Johansen and James Neal. The move paid dividends. The trio had good zone time and scored the winner when Johansen made a sweet pass on a 2-on-1 break to Neal for an open-side goal late in the second period. The Preds did a good job of finding pucks and getting them to the net. They had a bunch of good looks, not to mention, big plays at big times. “We’re going to need a couple of those in Anaheim,” mentioned Neal.
Rinne, who’s been struggling in this series, came up big, especially late. He stopped Corey Perry on a point-blank shot from in front with 6:40 left in the contest and turned away Perron’s wrister with less than 3 minutes to go. The Finnish was outstanding. The others played a little defense as well. Nashville had a 21-11 edge in blocked shots.
Mattias Ekholm put the Predators up 1-0 with a little over eight minutes left to go in the second period. He beat goalie Frederik Andersen with a wrister from the top of the right circle off of a pass from Calle Jarnkrok. That was his second goal of the series. Fans rewarded the Predators with two standing ovations in the period.
Ryan Kesler scored a power-play goal for the Ducks, not amid controversy. The Ducks got a power play with 42.8 seconds left in the period when officials penalized Ekholm for holding Hampus Lindholm after the Anaheim defenseman jumped onto Ekholm’s back at the end boards. Kesler, then tapped the puck into the net behind Rinne, who had just stopped a tip-in attempt by Perry. Fans were furious. Booing wasn’t the worst of it. They were so angry, they started throwing objects onto the ice. It was a bad call.
Weber sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left off of an assist by Neal. How will they cap this series off? Stay tuned.