The Predators faced off against a beast that they had never seen before on Wednesday night; a Game 7. Nevertheless, they went into Anaheim and battled that beast until the very end, and when it was all said and done, the scoreboard read Nashville 2, Anaheim 1.
One word that could be used to describe the Preds in Game 7 would be "efficient".
When it came to 5-on-5 play, the Ducks dominated the possession numbers with a Corsi For total of 51 compared to Nashville's of 34. The Ducks also had six high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 play while the Predators managed only three.
In all situations, the Ducks out shot the Preds by a count of 37-20 for the night while out shooting them in the final two periods combined 28-10. The Ducks outmatched the Preds on the stat sheet across the board Wednesday night, but the Preds got the final laugh on the scoreboard.
The game started off a bit smoother than I think a lot of people were expecting. There was certainly back-and-forth action, but it certainly took a little longer than expected for things to really get going.
Speaking of getting things going, Colin Wilson did just that for Nasvhille with 13:41 left in the first. Mattias Ekholm casually flipped the puck to the blue line where both Mike Fisher and Wilson were converging and after a few whacky bounces the puck appeared on Wilson's stick and he showed us what a $3.938 million backhand looks like.
The next memorable moment came with 8:36 left in the opening frame as James Neal drew an interference minor on Sami Vatanen. Then, Neal worked his magic again and got Kevin Bieksa thrown in the box for slashing. Nashville saw 30 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time but couldn't get anything going.
The Predators' confidence got an even bigger boost with 4:07 left in the first period when Paul Gaustad tipped home a Shea Weber one-timer to double up the Preds' advantage. Gaustad put together a very strong game as he blocked four shots, totaled for two shots of his own and won 71% of his face offs to go with what stood to be the game winning goal.
Managing the onslaught of pressure Anaheim was going to throw at the Preds before the period ended would have been ideal and that is exactly what the Preds were able to do. Not without one of Rinne's biggest saves of the night however.
The second period saw the Ducks throw everything and then some at the Predators. Anaheim had 11 scoring chances while Nashville had only five in the frame. The Ducks were also responsible for six high-danger scoring chances while the Predators managed none. It also didn't help that the Preds took three minor penalties in the period, either.
Not many would have thought that the most physical play up to that point of the game would come via a netminder, but that's exactly what happened with David Perron getting on Rinne's bad side.
Perron gave a little slash to Rinne behind the net:
slash on Rinne pic.twitter.com/v4UxuBUY2T— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 28, 2016
Then Rinne gave him a shove right back during a not so timely moment. Luckily the crossbar was there to back up Rinne:
The physical play continued in the second stanza.
Ryan Getzlaf picked on a kid half his size, Viktor Arvidsson, and threw him to the ice:
Getzlaf hit on Arvidsson: pic.twitter.com/KXHBV9WU76— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) April 28, 2016
Neal was called for elbowing on this play, which he did not agree with the call:
And, you've read nearly 700 words of this piece, and not one mention of Ryan Kesler. Special note on this play, Ryan Ellis was called for holding just seconds before Kesler decided to take out some frustration on Arvidsson with five seconds left in the middle period. Kesler did not get whistled for a penalty:
With the Ducks' power play carrying over into the third, they took advantage and cut the Preds' lead in half thanks to Kesler sending a wrister into the back of the net.
The nerves kept on building for Nashville in the third as Fisher was called for a high stick on Getzlaf at the 16:37 mark and Weber was called for roughing against Perron at the 12:41 mark. The Ducks put four shots on net in during their third period power play chances, but it was only the Kesler power play tally they were able to capitalize on.
With the clock fast approaching the 10:00 mark of the final period, the Ducks were inches away from knotting things up at 2-2 as Hampus Lindholm shot a wrister that was deflected off the crossbar and stayed out of the net.
Ducks were thisssss close to tying it at 2’s: pic.twitter.com/Nu1vKqgdct— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) April 28, 2016
Getzlaf was sent to the box for tripping with 5:22 left in regulation, but he actually committed the penalty exactly one minute before.
Watch the Predators play keep away:
The Nashville Predators play keep away and kill off over a minute of clock time near the end of Game 7. Unreal.https://t.co/oJytJPqXev— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 28, 2016
The Lindholm chance stood to be the last great opportunity the Ducks would manage to tie the contest up, as the Predators escaped the final minute-plus of 6-on-5 with the Anaheim netminder pulled.
A tip of the cap, actually, a tip of all of the caps needs to be gestured towards Rinne and his play on Wednesday night. The big Finn stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced on the night including six of the seven high-danger shots that came his way. He was also six-for-six on stopping medium-danger shots as well.
Rinne has come a long way this season. He was statistically one of the worst goalies in the entire NHL for a good chunk of the first half of the year and just a few months later he steps up in a major way in both Game 6 and Game 7 to help lead his team to the second-round.
Pekka Rinne: "This means a lot, it shows a lot of character that we won. Moving forward we can learn from this and be even better." #Preds— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) April 28, 2016