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Predators prove their mettle once again

Nashville rallies for Game 6 overtime win against Sharks to avoid elimination

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- Character is easy to talk about but much harder to prove.

The Nashville Predators proved their mettle once again Monday.

Game 6 was the latest case study in perseverance for the Predators, who had nothing going right for them early in another elimination game, the first of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks but their third of this postseason.

Nashville -- the "pesky Predators," as left wing Colin Wilson likes to call his team -- fought through the early lull and the resulting two-goal hole, as well as other hardships, to win 4-3 in overtime and force Game 7 in San Jose on Thursday.

The turnaround in Game 6 encapsulated what these Predators have been about all season.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Wilson evens game on tic-tac-toe play

They didn't give up when their season started more poorly than they expected. They refused to fold when the Anaheim Ducks won three straight games in the first round to put Nashville on the brink for the first time in the postseason. They also didn't blink when they had to play Game 7 in Anaheim, winning a 2-1 nail-biter.

Quitting is not a part of the DNA of these Predators.

"This is our lives and our season, and you never know when it is your last opportunity, your last chance," said Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who had an adventurous night, twice allowing a goal after he had stumbled down and was flailing to get back in the play.

The second one, which gave San Jose a 3-2 lead, was scored by Logan Couture at 10:04 of the third period.

But Rinne persevered.

He made a huge save on Joonas Donskoi in the first minute of overtime, 66 second before his teammate, rookie Viktor Arvidsson, scored the game-winner at 2:03.

"Nobody would want that [third goal] back more than him," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. "He got tripped there for a second, and they were able to score a big goal. I thought our response was really good shortly after with Wilson putting in the goal to tie it up. But let's not kid each other, Rinne has been outstanding in this series, and when we win, he's a big part of it."

Arvidsson also persevered.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Arvidsson's backhander wins it in OT

He has been noticeable all through the series against the Sharks, using his speed to torment the Sharks defense, but he couldn't convert. He had several of the best chances during the three overtime periods in Nashville's Game 4 victory but was stoned each time by San Jose goalie Martin Jones.

Monday, Arvidsson was moved up to the first line to give that unit more jump.

He was good all game in that role, and then delivered one of the iconic moments of these playoffs, at least so far.

"Of course it feels good," Arvidsson said of the first NHL playoff goal of his career. "I have had a lot of chances and I haven't buried them.

"I tried to get it on net and I got a really good touch on it, and it went over his shoulder. It was nice to see it go in."

The Predators have come to expect that type of stick-to-it attitude from each other. The bonds of trust have been forged through what is already the longest march, in games, through the playoffs in their history.

So, the disastrous first period was no big thing for this team. They put the offensive struggles and the two goals from San Jose depth forward Chris Tierney behind them and asked each other what they could do better.

"That wasn't us in the first; we weren't playing to our capabilities," Wilson said.

Then they went out and did it for the rest of the game, dominating play from the second period on.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Josi beats Jones with backhander

"It's the character of our team," said defenseman Roman Josi, who scored the first Nashville goal late in the first period to stop the bleeding. "I think all year we have been going through adversity and we never gave up. This team always works hard, and tonight we got rewarded for it.

"You never know what is going to happen in a game and you have to change it if you are not happy with your game."

Only teams with immense character can make those changes in-game when playing other elite teams. It is not easy and it requires an intense amount of trust and belief in the team concept. It's why comebacks are so rare this time of year.

The Predators did it Monday. It earned them the right to try again Thursday in Game 7. They will take it.

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