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.