Music City to Clutch City: Predators tie it late, win in overtime to take 3-2 series lead

The NHL playoffs are a lesson in how to never count a team out of a game and the Nashville Predators were more than happy to teach that lesson to Anaheim tonight beating the Ducks 4-3 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead.

Heading into the final minute of play, the Predators trailed the Ducks 3-2 thanks to two goals from Jason Blake and an incredible single effort from Bobby Ryan on his third period goal. With a faceoff in the Anaheim zone with under a minute to play, the Predators won the draw back to captain Shea Weber who let a shot rip through a crowd and past Ray Emery (33 saves) to tie the game with 36 seconds left in the third period.

Weber’s third goal of the playoffs gave the Predators new life and in overtime they’d take control of it as Jerred Smithson would score just 1:57 into the extra session thanks to a beauty of a feed from Jordin Tootoo to end the game and put the Predators on the brink of winning their first playoff round in franchise history. The overtime win was also the Predators first in team history helping to set the stage for a raucous Game 6 in Nashville as the Predators look to wrap things up.

Teams battling back to stay strong in the face of adversity is nothing new. Teams with big leads in games or series have been coming out on the short end of things in a disturbing number. For Nashville to get tough and bear down at the end of regulation to keep pressuring Anaheim and forcing them to dump the puck for icing towards the end of the game helping to set up the faceoff that led to the game-tying goal. The pressure kept up in overtime and it paid off in Smithson’s game winner.

That kind of high intensity paired up with questionable Ducks goaltending has produced three wins so far in the series. Expect more of the same on Sunday in Nashville. While Pekka Rinne wasn’t looking like the Vezina Trophy finalist again tonight (23 saves), the rest of the team rallied around him tonight to make sure he didn’t end up on the wrong end of things.

Anaheim’s in a hole now and while you can’t count them out by any means, there are obvious holes in their game that the Predators are pushing to expose. They’re crashing Ray Emery’s net and making the Ducks’ defense look bad. While the Ducks superstar players are alternately being supermen and struggling to get on the sheet, they need to step up in a big way if they’re going to prevent the Predators from ending the series on Sunday. There’s a reason why Corey Perry is being talked about as a potential MVP in the league and he’ll need to show why in Game 6 if there’s going to be a Game 7.

Here are the highlights from tonight’s game.

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Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.