By Amanda DiPaolo
A year ago to the day, the Nashville Predators had the lead in a pivotal game 5 Western Conference Quarter Final against Chicago with under a minute to play. Nashville went on the power play, but then surrendered a shorthanded goal, tying the game. As all Predators fans remember so well, Nashville went on to lose the game and the series in game six at home.
Sunday night, history was made, but not repeated when the Predators went into the final minute of game 6 against the Ducks with a one-goal lead, and on the power play.
Instead of giving up a goal, David Legwand scored in the empty net.
The first ever player to be drafted by the Nashville Predators added the insurance giving the Predators the two-goal lead with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.
“It’s a huge thing for us to move on and get to continue playing. It means a bit. We get to play in round two. There are only going to be 8 teams playing, so that’s exciting for us to get a chance to do,” Legwand said when asked what it meant for him personally to be moving on to the next round.
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said the series symbolized what it meant to play Predators hockey. “Legwand’s line got a couple goals and they were playing lots against Getzlaf. Fisher’s line got us some goals. Smithson’s line got us some goals. Geoffrion’s line got us goals. That’s sort of what we do — it’s our DNA. To win this series we needed everybody, and everybody contributed.”
Of course, it wasn’t easy to wrap up the series.
“In the last five minutes I thought it was getting a little hairy — intense. Guys were cutting their shifts short. You’re making sure you have the right number of guys on the ice. You knew they were coming back with their top guys over and over again, so we just tried to extend our bench a little bit to try to handle them,” Trotz said.
The on-ice play wasn’t the only thing intense in Bridgestone Arena on Sunday night. The crowd’s engagement with every move in the game was unmatched by any other Predators game. From before the opening puck drop to the final buzzer, Smashville showed the hockey world that Nashville knows, loves and supports the sport. The intensity grew with every passing minute, and by the 12 minute mark of the third period, much of the arena, and almost the entire lower bowl was already standing, cheering, even while the puck was in play. It was amazing that the players could even hear a whistle.
Teemu Selanne opened scoring 10:22 into the first period. It was Selanne’s sixth goal of the series. The Predators were able to tie up the game with 28 seconds left in the opening frame on a goal by Nick Spaling. Spaling, in the slot, took a feed from Jordin Tootoo.
“It was a pretty even game tonight,” Selanne said, “There were a couple mistakes again — cost a couple of goals. We couldn’t avoid those for some reason. I think the whole series – defensively – we were not as good as we wanted. It was not a problem to score goals but when you let too many goals and too many mistakes — that really hurt us. I think that was the difference.”
Selanne will not make a decision on whether to return for another year or return.
The game was again tied up after the second period when Steve Sullivan and Jason Blake exchanged goals.
Nashville thought they took the lead early in the third period when Patric Hornqvist’s tip-in beat Ray Emery. The goal was waved off as being knocked in with a high-stick. After video review, the ruling on the ice stood.
Spaling gave Nashville the 3-2 lead just 4:53 into the final frame when he knocked in the rebound off a Tootoo shot. Pekka Rinne picked up the other assist.
“I think my line was working hard tonight. They were laying on the forecheck, turned pucks over and they just found me up front, which made it easy on me,” Spaling said about his two goals.
Nashville now awaits the winner of the Chicago-Vancouver series as well as the LA-Sharks series to see who they meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Tickets for round 2 are now on sale.
Photo Credit: Getting Images
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