NHL Playoffs: Predators down Ducks to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Predators down Ducks to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Different players just keep stepping up for the Nashville Predators, and now their magical postseason run has an even bigger destination: the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

Colton Sissons scored his third goal with 6:00 left, and the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 win in Game 6 on Monday night in the Western Conference finals.

"In the back of your head, you've been thinking about the Finals and then when the buzzer goes off, it's an amazing feeling," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said.

The Predators, who've never won even a division title in their 19-year history, came in with the fewest points of any team in these playoffs. They lost their top center, Ryan Johansen, for the playoffs after Game 4 because of emergency surgery on his left thigh. Captain Mike Fisher has missed two games with an upper-body injury.

"We went through a tremendous amount of adversity the last 72 hours losing two key guys in our lineup," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I mean, I said it before earlier in the playoffs that this team's got tremendous amount of composure. There is so much confidence in this dressing room what we can accomplish together if we play the right way."

They've swept the West's No. 1 seed in Chicago, downed St. Louis in six in the second round and now the Pacific Division champs. Peter Laviolette is the fourth coach to take three different teams to the Final, and the first since the playoffs split into conference play in 1994.

Laviolette joked that probably means he's been fired a lot.

"Our guys know the big picture," Laviolette said of his Predators. "They understand what it is that we're trying to do here. And when that time comes, we'll be ready."

The Predators will play either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday.

Anaheim lost in the conference finals for the second time in three years.

"Our effort was there and we were a desperate hockey club right from the opening faceoff, and we didn't quit until they scored the second empty-net goal," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said.

Cam Fowler tied it 3-3 at 8:52 of the third for Anaheim as the Ducks tried to rally for the fifth time this season when trailing by multiple goals.

But Sissons, who scored on the third shot of the game, scored twice in a wild third period to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:00 and then 4-3 three minutes later.

"I don't think I even dreamt of this moment, scoring a hat trick in the Western Conference clinching game, but I can't speak enough for just our whole group," Sissons said. "We've been through some challenges together and we stuck together no matter what, just always believed and here we are."

Austin Watson scored on Nashville's first shot and had an empty-netter with 1:34 to go. Filip Forsberg also had an empty-net goal.

Rinne made 38 saves to improve to 12-4.

Ondrej Kase scored his second career goal -- both in this series -- giving Anaheim a chance to tie the NHL record with a fifth rally when trailing by multiple goals. Chris Wagner banked the puck off Rinne's head for a goal at 5:00 of the third to keep the Ducks close.

But this has been the best postseason ever for Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a stretch ranking among the NHL's best. And the 6-foot-5 Finn used his big body to turn away shot after shot even with the Ducks trying to crash the net every opportunity.

Music City buzzed all day leading up to the puck drop waiting for one of the biggest sports parties this town has ever seen.

Superstar Garth Brooks spoiled the usual mystery of who would sing the national anthem with Twitter hints hours before the game. Sure enough, his wife Trisha Yearwood became the latest to handle the honors. Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George waved the rally towel to crank up the fans.

That didn't even include the throngs packing the plaza outside the arena's front doors and the park across the street.

The Ducks, who came in 2-1 when facing elimination this postseason, peppered Rinne with pucks.

But they had goalie Jonathan Bernier making his first career playoff start after John Gibson was scratched with a hamstring injury. Caryle said Gibson, who went out after the first period of Game 5, was expected to play before telling them he was unavailable after skating Monday morning. Jhonas Enroth dressed as Bernier's backup.

Watson's third this postseason deflected off the left skate of Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour just 81 seconds into the game. Sissons skated on the top line in place of Johansen. He finished a game-high plus-5.

"This one is going to sting for a while," Ducks forward Corey Perry said.

Notes
Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and coached Philadelphia to the Final in 2010. Laviolette joins Scotty Bowman (St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit), Dick Irvin (Chicago, Toronto and Montreal) and Mike Keenan (Flyers, Chicago, Rangers) taking at least three teams to the Final. ... Sissons' hat trick was the first in a conference final clincher since Chicago's Patrick Kane in 2013 against Los Angeles. His hat trick is the second in Nashville playoff history.

NHL Playoffs: Crosby, Penguins hold off Senators to even series

NHL Playoffs: Crosby, Penguins hold off Senators to even series

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OTTAWA, Ontario -- Matt Murray was back -- and so was Sidney Crosby.

Crosby had a goal and an assist, Murray made 22 saves in his first start of the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Friday night to even the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2.

Crosby had only one point as the defending champion Penguins dropped two of the first three, leading to questions about his health following a jarring concussion in the second round.

"I think he leads by example and I thought he had one of his best games tonight," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "But it doesn't just stop with Sid, it goes down the bench."

Murray started for the first time in more than six weeks.

"All I can really do is kind of jump in and try not to think about it," Murray said. "Just try and play with the flow of the game and kind of let yourself get lost in the game a little bit. I thought I did a pretty good job of that tonight. There's a lot of ways I could have been a lot better I thought, but all together felt good about the game."

Sullivan turned to Murray after Marc-Andre Fleury was chased in the first period Wednesday night in the Penguins' 5-1 loss in Game 3.

"I thought Matt was solid," Sullivan said. "He made some timely saves for us when we needed it. He has a calm demeanor about him. I thought he was tracking the puck extremely well. And certainly, he made a couple of key saves for us at key times."

Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta added goals to help Pittsburgh take a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Clarke MacArthur and Tom Pyatt scored for Ottawa.

"They were the better team tonight for two periods and they deserved the game," Senators coach Guy Boucher said.

Game 5 is Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Murray made a strong stop on Mike Hoffman less than two minutes into the game and denied Viktor Stalberg on a pair of follow-up opportunities. The goalie made maybe his best stop on Derick Brassard's backhander, kicking the shot away with his right pad.

"He made a really big save early on with his leg save when the guy kind of went around him after a rebound and I think right after that our team went into the offensive side and really played at the puck and gave us that momentum," teammate Chris Kunitz said. "I think we did an all-around good job tonight."

Fleury started the first 15 games for Pittsburgh with Murray mostly sidelined by injury.

"I don't want to make this about myself," Fleury said after the game. "We scored some goals. That was nice. We won. It's good."

Pittsburgh opened the scoring with 46 seconds left in the first period when Maatta went down the left side and fired a short-side shot past on goalie Craig Anderson. Crosby set up the play.

Pittsburgh's already battered defense took another blow late in the first when Bobby Ryan hit Chad Ruhwedel. Ian Cole immediately throttled Ryan, as Ruhwedel was down on the ice. Ryan somehow escaped a charging penalty on the play, and Cole drew the only call for roughing.

The Pens are already without Kris Letang, who is done for the playoffs, and Justin Schultz, who missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.

Crosby's brilliance showed up again midway through the second on a power play after Jean-Gabriel Pageau ripped off the Pittsburgh star's helmet in a scrum around the net.

Crosby stationed himself right on the doorstep to Anderson's left, his right leg hugging the post for support. That didn't allow him to score on the initial setup from Jake Guentzel, but helped him to bang in the follow-up for the 2-0 lead. Guentzel had two assists.

Dumoulin made it 3-0 less than four minutes later with a shot from the left point that caromed in off Ottawa defenseman Dion Phaneuf's skate.

Ottawa had mostly neutralized the high-powered Penguins in the first three games, holding them to just three goals -- a mark they equaled in less than 32 minutes of Game 4. Pittsburgh seemed to find more speed, got more shots in tight and capitalized on opportunities around the net.

Following that initial flurry in the first, the Senators had little going right until the last two minutes of the second when Ryan found MacArthur with a crafty backdoor pass for Ottawa's first goal.

The Senators pulled within one with five minutes left when Pyatt got a skate on Erik Karlsson's already-deflected point shot.

"It's just a little frustrating right now," Karlsson said. "They're doing a good job in controlling our breakouts and when we get it we don't really get the opportunities that we want."

NHL Playoffs: Ducks regroup from blown lead to beat Predators in OT

NHL Playoffs: Ducks regroup from blown lead to beat Predators in OT

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Corey Perry just keeps finding the net in overtime this postseason, and his third goal in extra time helped the Ducks tie the Western Conference finals at 2-2.

Perry's shot deflected in off Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban's stick 10:25 into overtime, and the Ducks snapped the Predators' 10-game home playoff winning streak with a 3-2 victory Thursday night.

"I was just trying to create traffic or create a balance and create havoc in front," Perry said. "And that's what they say in overtime: You throw it on net, never know what's going to happen."

Perry matched Teemu Selanne's franchise record with his ninth winning goal and moved past Selanne for sole possession of second in Ducks' history with his 36th postseason goal.

John Gibson made 32 saves for Anaheim, which was the last team to beat the Predators in Nashville in the playoffs last spring in Game 4 of their first-round series. The Predators had matched the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings with their 10-game winning streak but missed matching Colorado's 11-0 playoff run in 1996-97.

Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie staked the Ducks to a 2-0 lead. But Subban scored with 6:27 left, and Filip Forsberg tied it with 34.5 seconds remaining in regulation with his fourth goal in four games.

Perry ended the second overtime in the series with a goal originally credited to Nate Thompson. Perry stopped the puck as the Predators tried to clear and shot from the right boards at a severe angle. Subban stuck out his stick trying to poke-check the puck away only to re-direct it past goalie Pekka Rinne.

"They caught a lucky bounce tonight on the redirect that ended up being a difference maker," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The goal finally was credited to Perry after the Ducks appealed to the NHL.

"I don't really care at this point as long as it goes in the net," Thompson said.

The Ducks have matched their franchise record with their fourth overtime win this postseason. They are 4-1 with the lone loss in this series opener to Nashville. They went 4-0 in OT on their way to winning the 2007 Stanley Cup.

Game 5 is Saturday night in Anaheim.

"We thought we were outcompeted last game, so it feels good to take care of business and get a split on the road and now it's best out of three," Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said.

The Ducks killed off five penalties, including a 5 on 3 in the third. But the Predators outshot them 11-5 in the third with the late flurry forcing overtime.

Subban scored off a blast from the blue line to revive the standing-room only crowd with Forsberg helping screen Gibson. Forsberg, who started Nashville's comeback win in Game 3, ensured overtime crashing the net with two teammates and smashing the puck across the line.

"Obviously, we're disappointed," Forsberg said. "I don't think we showed up in the first, and then after that we played better. It's tough. They're a good team. We can't give them a two-goal lead like that."

Nashville brought out inaugural American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson as the latest big name to sing the national anthem, and rock group Kings of Leon stirred up the crowd by waving from the bandstand in Music City's latest show of star power. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also was on hand with a franchise-record 17,423 fans.

The Ducks looked much stronger after a day off Wednesday from coach Randy Carlyle, and they pounded the Predators up and down the ice. Defenseman Josh Manson even checked Rinne against the boards behind the net late in the second period.

They also dominated the play early and caught the Predators in a line change with a long pass to Rakell leading to a slap shot that beat Rinne at 11:30 of the first. It was the seventh goal this postseason for Rakell, who led the Ducks with 33 goals during the regular season.

Anaheim wound up outshooting Nashville 14-2 in the first period thanks to the Predators being credited for a shot during the intermission. It was the fewest shots ever allowed by the Ducks in a period.

The Predators opened the second with a bit more energy, matching what they put on net in the first period within a minute. But Ritchie gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead at 10:22 with a wrister from the right circle, beating Rinne's blocker for his fourth this postseason.

Notes
The Predators said captain Mike Fisher was being evaluated after a collision in front of his own net late in regulation. ... This was the 47th one-goal game this postseason, four short of the record set in 207. ... The Ducks previously had allowed three shots in a period in the postseason six different times, the last in the first period of Game 5 of the Western finals May 25, 2015, against Chicago. ... Forsberg tied a franchise record with his seventh goal this postseason. ... Viktor Arvidsson had two assists for Nashville.