Friday, April 22, 2011

Preds 4, Ducks 3 (OT): Unchartered Territory

For a moment, it seemed like the Preds had come so close, but to no avail. Again.

And then the Captain stood up, followed by a player who is known for his skills in the faceoff dot, and not his offensive prowess.

With Jerred Smithson's goal at 1:57 of OT, Nashville registered their first OT win in the playoffs, as well as their first opportunity to clinch a series win. Unfamiliar territory for this hockey team, but after tonight, they are ready to take that next step.

1st Period
  • Leading up to this game, a goal had been scored in every period in the series. Kevin Klein kept that streak going at 8:32, registering his first career playoff goal after joining Jordin Tootoo on a 2-on-1 rush.
  • Pekka Rinne looked great out of the gate after his abysmal effort in the third period of Game 4. Perhaps being named one of the three finalists for the Vezina lifted his spirits some.
2nd Period
  • Jason Blake knotted the game on the PP at 13:39, banging away at a rebound of a Luca Sbisa shot until he got the puck past Pekka Rinne.
3rd Period
  • Bobby Ryan scored a beautiful, potentially back-breaking goal 40 seconds into the period, making David Legwand look foolish not once, but twice, and put a backhander up and over Rinne.
  • All season long the Preds have shown their resiliency, and that has spread into this series in abundance. At 11:20, Joel Ward took a slapshot just as he entered the Ducks zone. Somehow the rebound caromed over to Ward, who took another whack at the puck and got it past Ray Emery.
  • Another seemingly disheartening goal was scored by the Ducks at 14:16, as Teemu Selanne, while on his back, managed to centered a pass from behind the goal line into the slot. Jason Blake was in the right place at the right time, as he pounced on the loose puck and fired it past Rinne for his second goal of the game.
  • Just like Game 5 in Chicago last season, only in reverse. With 36 seconds remaining in regulation, Mike Fisher won a faceoff back to Cody Franson after Anaheim had iced the puck. Franson passed over to his left, and Shea Weber put a shot on net. The puck found its way through all kinds of traffic and beat Emery over his glove shoulder. 
  • Going into overtime, Nashville had all of the momentum, but with all of the firepower that Anaheim possesses, how long would that momentum last? 
  • It's only fitting that a player that defines the Preds scores the goal that gives the Preds their biggest win in franchise history to date. Nashville's grinders took to the ice and put pressure on Emery, and at 1:57, Jordin Tootoo, mere moments after nearly scoring on a glorious scoring chance himself, centered a pass to a charging Jerred Smithson in the slot, who beat Emery, setting off a wild celebration in the Anaheim zone.
Other Thoughts
  • After Wednesday night, Pekka Rinne needed to respond in a big way on the road tonight. He answered the call, stopping 23 of 26 Anaheim shots. It's not his flashiest game, but some of the saves he made kept Nashville in the game.
  • Jordin Tootoo has had an outstanding series, and he continued his great play tonight by getting himself on the scoresheet with two primary assists, the second one obviously being the biggest. You can't help but feel happy for the guy after all he's been through.
That's one monkey off the Preds back. On Sunday, they can rid themselves of the monkey that has haunted them for six postseasons by clinching their first series win in franchise history. Last season, Chicago had the momentum following a Game 5 win in overtime. There's no doubt that Nashville has the momentum coming home for Game 6. Finish the job, boys.

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