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Preds hope to make history against Ducks

by Deborah Francisco

(Nashville leads best-of-seven series, 3-2)


Big Story – The series has been back-and-forth since Game 1, but the Predators could make franchise history on Sunday if they advance to the Western Conference Semifinals with a win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6. Nashville has never advanced past the first round before. As exciting as that would be, Nashville is not out of the woods yet. In fact, the Preds barely scraped by with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 5 thanks to a quick strike off the stick of Jarred Smithson at the 1:57 mark of the extra period.

Team Scope:

Ducks – Anaheim suffered a heartbreaking loss in the pivotal Game 5 meeting between these teams at Honda Center on Friday night. After tying the game 1-1 in the second period, Bobby Ryan tallied arguably the most beautiful goal of the playoffs as he danced around the Predators' defense twice before slipping the puck past Pekka Rinne to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead in the third period. Later in the period, Anaheim was unable to hold onto it’s 3-2 lead when Nashville tied the game with 30 seconds left in regulation.

"We had a couple of mental breakdowns and they cost us big," Ryan Getzlaf said.  "We were 30 seconds away from being in control of this thing. Now we're fighting for our lives."

Despite the loss, the Ducks are focusing on the positives as they hit the road for Game 6 in Nashville.

"Our team's got a lot of veteran guys, a lot of guys that have been through this situation that can keep us on an even keel," Ryan said. "We've got to be ready for Sunday, that's all we can do."

"You never know in this game, that's why it's a beauty," Teemu Selanne added. "So I guess we're going to learn something and move on. Sunday is going to be a new opportunity."

Predators – Friday night's 4-3 overtime win was a landmark victory for Nashville as it was the first time in franchise history that it has won three playoff games in a series. It was also the first time the Preds have won a playoff game in overtime after three prior attempts – Game 5 in 2010 against Chicago, which resulted in a 5-4 loss; a 2-1 loss in Game 5 against Detroit in 2008 and a double-overtime battle against San Jose in Game 1 in 2007.

The Predators were thrilled to come away with the overtime victory on Friday night with a goal from an unlikely hero in Smithson. Smithson scored just five goals in the regular season.

"You talk about a Predator type of player," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Smithson. "He comes to work every game and he gives you those intangible type of minutes. I thought it was fitting he scored the goal."

Not only was it a landmark victory for Nashville, but it was a big moral victory as well considering it trailed by a goal with five minutes left in regulation but managed not only to tie it but to win in overtime as well.

"We've got a lot of heart in this locker room and a lot of belief," Smithson said. "It was a great faceoff win by Fish (Mike Fisher), and Webbs (Shea Weber) getting the shot off quick and finding a way to tie it up was a huge momentum boost. In overtime, my linemates did all the work there."

Who's hot – Weber boasts  the most points by a Predators' defenseman in a single series with three goals and five points (3 goals, 2 assists) so far. … Selanne leads the League in postseason goals with 5 and Corey Perry has the League lead in postseason assists with 6.

Injury Report – Nashville's Martin Erat missed the last contest with an upper-body injury but he is day-to-day. ... Goaltender Jonas Hiller (vertigo) remains the Ducks' only injury.

Stat Pack – The team who has scored the first goal has won all five games…A goal has been scored in every period of the series so far (16 periods)… Also, Fisher (3 goals, 3 assists) needs one point to tie the Predators' single-series scoring output which is seven points and is held by David Legwand and Paul Kariya.

Puck Drop – "The goal is to go home and finish it off at home," Nashville forward Joel Ward said. "We definitely don't want to get back on a four-hour flight to California."

As for the Ducks, they know what’s at stake on Sunday.

"We're fighting for our lives now, there's no doubt about it," Getzlaf said. "We're going into a hostile building, and we're going to have to go in there and play the same way we did in Game 4 and hopefully get the same result."

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