The Nashville Predators entered Bridgestone Arena tonight on the brink of history. Leading the series against the Anaheim Ducks 3-2, the enter city of Nashville began game six with big dreams. They were not disappointed.
Nashville Predators Punch Ticket to Stanley Cup Final for the First Time in Franchise History
Unlikely Hero Emerges in Colton Sissions
Playoff hockey allows players to shine in big moments. Tonight’s moment belonged to Colton Sissons. The forward had only eight goals in 58 regular season games and two in the post-season before tonight’s contest. However, Sissons added three more to his name tonight with two assists from teammate, and game five hero, Pontus Aberg.
Sissons captured his first goal from the slot as he wristed it straight past Jonathan Bernier at 8:47, securing Nashville a comfortable 2-0 lead. Next, he pounced on a rebound to slip the puck through Bernier’s five-hole. A cannon blast from the left face-off circle completed the trifecta, inking tonight in Sissons’ mind forever. As hats rained down on the ice minutes later, Sissons secured the second hat trick ever for the Predators in the post-season. Filip Forsberg has the other.
Goaltending Wins Games
Despite the Ducks’ continuous offensive pushes, Pekka Rinne simply had a much better night than Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. The Ducks continued to hammer the Preds netminder with pucks but Rinne was ready. His save on Andrew Cogliano to get back to the right post, perfectly executed. Wagner’s goal off Rinne’s helmet was reminiscent of Erik Karlsson (basically impossible to stop) and Cam Fowler‘s goal came with a hint of goaltender interference as well. Rinne deserves every accolade being dished out to him.
Bernier on the other hand had a nightmarish start for the Anaheim Ducks, letting in two goals on three shots in the first. The Predator’s consistent heckling couldn’t have calmed the nerves of the 28 year-old, partially explaining his .750 save percentage performance.
Ducks Comeback Falls Short
Nicknamed the “Comeback Kids,” Anaheim did not let tonight’s game go without a fight. Undoubtedly the Ducks were the superior team for the majority of the game, capitalizing on chances and getting bodies to the net. With their backs against a wall, the Ducks can make miracles happen. Cam Fowler’s game-tying goal at 8:52 in the third, though laced with goaltender interference controversy, sent a jolt of hope throughout the Ducks fan base.
There’s no doubt the Ducks wanted another Cinderella-story similar to their three-goal comeback against the Edmonton Oilers in game five. But pulling Bernier would make their last three minutes look much different under the lights of Smashville. Forsberg and Auston Watson took advantage of the Ducks’ inability to keep it in the offensive zone and sniped two empty netters. The Ducks should be proud of their accomplishments this post-season but tonight, they ran out of second chances.
The Strength of a City
To not mention the Nashville fan base while discussing tonight’s game would be a complete oversight. Apparent from the team’s arrival at the airport yesterday, the entire city of Nashville was ready to make history. As soon as country superstar Trisha Yearwood crooned the Star-Spangled Banner, a sea of yellow erupted with cheers for the Predators. Fallen players, Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala waved to the crowd and it was clear, this night would be special.
A cascade of firsts, including general manager David Poilie‘s first Stanley Cup final in 33 years, has christened Music City into Hockeytown and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Game One of the Stanley Cup Final will be next Monday, May 29th. The opponent is still to be determined. The Pittsburgh Penguins lead the Ottawa Senators three games to two in the Eastern Conference Final. Game 6 goes Tuesday Night.