J.P. Dumont, Ray Emery

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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Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.