NASHVILLE -- Fans of the Nashville Predators got an early start on their Stanley Cup Final nerves on Thursday, four days before the best-of-7 series begins.
A group of Predators fans, clad in gold, watched Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators at Double Dogs, a popular sports bar near the Vanderbilt University campus, eager to find out who their team would play in the Final, which begins in Pittsburgh on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports).
The Penguins and Senators made them wait, playing into double overtime. Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champion, won 3-2 on forward Chris Kunitz's second goal of the game at 5:09 of the second overtime, setting a date against the Predators. Nashville is making its Final debut after winning the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks in six games on Monday.
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The majority of the patrons appeared to be pulling for the Senators, believing them to be a more beatable opponent.
Each Ottawa scoring chance was greeted with oohs and ahhs, each goal by eruptions of clapping and yelling. Some dialed-in fans even spent a bit of time pacing.
But when Kunitz scored the game-winning goal the patrons celebrated, the tension of the back-and-forth game finally getting released.
Adam Saller, 32, has been a fan of the Predators since they came into the NHL in 1998. On Thursday, he carried a Predators hockey stick he received last Christmas and wore a "Smashville" baseball hat.
"This city is ready for this, this market is ready," Saller said. "They are ready to see the Preds take it all the way home."
The fact that they will have to go through the Penguins to make that happen is perfect in Saller's mind.
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"It's great," Saller said, noting that travel will not be an issue with the two cities only a 90-minute plane trip apart. "I'm pumped, I am extremely pumped."
Mathew Lummus, 26, adopted the Predators as his team when he moved to Nashville from Houston eight years ago.
He is also excited to see the Predators go against the Penguins, who finished 17 points ahead of Nashville in the regular-season standings.
"I think it is going to be more of an offensive series with the Penguins," Lummus said. "It's definitely the more interesting story to take on the defending champions than Ottawa, [who] not everybody was even picturing to make the playoffs this year."
Lummus, who watched the game with a couple of buddies and his dog, Marco, also noted that the Predators have defeated three higher-seeded teams in the Western Conference -- the Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks -- on their way to the Final.
"At this point, you just have to step up and play whatever is there," Lummus said.