Pekka Rinne calls Nashville’s Game 5 win the biggest in team history

The Nashville Predators are in uncharted territory for their slowly (but wisely) improving franchise. They already reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in their history by dispatching the Anaheim Ducks in six games, but last night marked their first win while staring down their own elimination.

Five times before it, the Predators found themselves on the verge of an involuntary early vacation and blinked. This time around, though, they managed to win a dramatic 4-3 Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks on the strength of Joel Ward’s three-point performance.

Of course, the Predators wouldn’t have gotten this far without their Vezina-quality goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 31 saves in Game 5. Rinne has only been a big part of this team for the last three seasons, but it wasn’t lost on him how important this victory was for the team.

Here’s what he told NHL.com about the W.

Q: What does this win say about your team’s resiliency?

A: That’s the way we are. We’ve done this during the regular season many times, but obviously this is the biggest game so far for us probably in the Preds’ history. For the organization it’s the biggest game ever, and we did a great job. We battled hard, came really strong in the third period, got two big goals from Joel Ward and at the end showed a lot of character, blocking shots, doing the little things, just playing for the team.

Q: You think this is bigger than winning Game 6 against Anaheim to win the first series in franchise history?

A: Oh yeah, it’s second round. At the moment that was the biggest step for our franchise, winning the first round, but now we’re living in a different series and living a new experience. So far this was the biggest win for us.

If a Game 5 win was significant, one can only imagine how a big (dare we say it?) Game 7 victory could be. That would mark another first in franchise history, but to get that chance they need to win against Vancouver again on Monday.

(Perhaps that would be the biggest home win in Predators history, then?)

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.

Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim