That's right, boys--we're going to the second round.
Last year it was the Blackhawks. Before that we had been demonized by the Sharks and Red Wings. But no matter whom the opponent was, Nashville has never been able to get past the first round.
Until now. Second round, meet Smashville. We’ve been waiting to see you for a long time. History has been made.
Fueled by two Nick Spaling scores, the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim ducks in game six by a score of 4-2, and eliminate them by that same count. After several years of first round floundering, the Predators finally put together a solid series against a worthy opponent and will move on to face the winner of the Canucks/Blackhawks (game six is currently in progress, Canucks lead series 3-2). Streeski got his birthday wish.
After winning a pivotal and dramatic game in Anaheim, the Nashville Predators returned home to a loud and welcoming crowd, and converted on their first opportunity to eliminate the Ducks despite many missed opportunities in front of the net in the second and third periods.
Getting off to a good start was paramount for the Preds, because in each of the first five games of the series, the team who scored first went on to win the game. Fortunately, however, that trend was bucked in game six after Teemu Selanne scored his sixth goal of the playoffs at 10:22 in the first period, putting the Ducks up 1-0. Nashville would answer at the 19:32 mark with the first of Nick Spaling’s two goals to tie the game 1-1.
At 3:21 in the second, Steve Sullivan put the Preds up 2-1, and the game would eventually be tied up again at the 18:23 mark of the second by a power play goal scored by Anaheim’s Jason Blake. The power play was huge for Anaheim throughout the series, and was their one very distinct advantage over the Predators, and something the Predators are going to need to improve if they are going to advance through another series.
In the third period, Pekka Rinne got an assist on the go-ahead goal scored by Nick Spaling (his second goal of the game), as well as some beautiful saves (and some lucky ones too) to preserve the series-clinching victory for Nashville.
Saku Koivu shot Anaheim in the foot at the 19:22 mark by picking up an interference penalty, which eventually led to Nashville getting an easy empty-net goal to ice the victory.
The fans greatly appreciated the victory, and were loud from start to finish. It was apparent that no one in that building (other than the few who were sitting on the Anaheim bench) wanted the Predators to make another trip to California. This is our time.
After the game, when asked about his two goals, Spaling said, “Yeah, it’s huge. We gotta keep going now.” And when asked about who he (or the team) would rather face, he said simply, “Doesn’t matter.”
Nashville will face, as mentioned before, the winner of the Vancouver/Chicago series. Game six is in progress as I write this, and is tied 2-2 late in the second period. Once it is determined who the Preds will be playing, there will be a preview of the series.