Been there, done that: Nashville’s Peter Laviolette is not the only coach in this series with his name on the Stanley Cup. The Predators have turned that bastion of country music and college football into a hockey-mad city as they have reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Their fortune changed Wednesday when, trialing 1-0 to the Oilers, Anaheim took control of the game and the series and finds itself back in the Western Conference finals after a 2-1 victory.
P.K. Subban got the puck at the left point after defense partner Mattias Ekholm drove to the net with the puck and sent it back to Subban from the corner after a scramble in front. With Neal, Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, the Preds do have some firepower of their own, yet are averaging just 2.8 goals per game – lowest of the remaining four playoff teams. Anaheim still rallied to force overtime on Hampus Lindholm’s clutch third-period goal, but James Neal ended it for Nashville. At least the Ducks didn’t face a multi-goal deficit heading to the third for the first time during their five-year streak of Game 7 drama. As for the Predators, well, they have 618 total post-season games played and nearly a quarter of that is tied up in captain Mike Fisher.
“We got it in their zone and were working it around”. In the series that followed, they held the Blues to 11 goals over six games.
But he is set to play for the first time in a top-level senior global event with his twin brother Joel Lundqvist, who is Sweden’s captain and plays forward. But Sunday we’ll regroup. If you eat two chicken parms and win, you can afford to eat two chicken parms before every damn game, calories be damned. “He’s played so well for us and he’s really at the top of his game”.
For the Ducks, there’s reason for optimism in both their recent playoff comebacks and in the revival of their penalty killing on Friday. They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and then polished off a very good St. Louis Blues team.
“No guy will use the short turnaround from Game 7 as an excuse”, Thompson said. A notion that the Oilers would one day look back at this second-round series as the moment this team learned what it was capable of in the playoffs.
The Predators proved why they were a popular pick in the preseason polls to make the Stanley Cup Finals in this last series.
Winger Tyler Pitlick, who ripped up his knee after scoring eight goals in his first 31 games, is a Group 6 unrestricted free-agent because he’s turned 25 and he’s played fewer than 80 National Hockey League games (58) and he’s accrued at least three pro seasons. The Ducks won the Pacific Division this season with 105 points. During a disastrous 19-game stretch that lasted from February to April, Neal managed just one goal. It was Silfverberg’s 14th career playoff goal, tying him with Paul Kariya for fourth place on the all-time franchise list. No one move should get credit for the Preds’ success; instead, it’s a result of all of them.
Though Anaheim struck first, the first period belonged to Nashville.
Austin Watson hammered a one-timer off of Sami Vatanen’s skate and into the Anaheim net.
The Ducks killed off a 5-on-3 disadvantage midway through the third period to keep the game tied. With a 12-2-0 run to close out the regular season and an admirable postseason showing against two Western Conference teams loaded with playoff experience, the Oilers earned leaguewide respect.
The Ducks and the Predators were the class of the first two rounds, taking just five combined losses and earning a rematch of last season’s first-round series for considerably higher stakes.
NOTES: With Oilers D Andrej Sekera (undisclosed injury) out for the series, Eric Gryba was active for the second straight game.