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Rejuvenated Wilson keys first-round win by Predators

Forward struggled during regular season but found game against Ducks

by Abbey Mastracco / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Colin Wilson's teammates on the Nashville Predators insisted throughout the regular season that there was nothing wrong with him.

Wilson dropped to eight goals this season after scoring 20 in 2014-15, and he finished with 24 points, down from 42. He also ended the regular season with a minus-1 rating after a career-best plus-19 last season.

However, Wilson's teammates insisted he was simply a victim of puck luck, bad bounces and good goalies. The way he played in Nashville's Western Conference First Round series against the Anaheim Ducks proved their point.

The old Colin Wilson re-emerged against the Ducks, helping the Predators win a playoff series for the first time since 2012 by scoring two goals and finishing with five points. Wilson scored the first goal of Game 7 on Wednesday, and the Predators eliminated the Ducks with a 2-1 victory.

Video: NSH@ANA, Gm7: Wilson makes slick move to provide lead

 "He seems to just have another step right now," Wilson's linemate Mike Fisher said. "Last year in the playoffs, he was our best player and I'd argue to say that in this first round, too. He's been paying unbelievable. He made another huge play tonight and he's been fun to play with."

After much was made about his poor regular-season numbers, Wilson's Game 1 goal tied the game at 2-2 in the second period. In Game 7, he opened the scoring 6:19 into the game by lifting a backhand shot over the shoulder of Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen. Wilson went to the net, he used his size and strength and maybe more importantly, his smarts.

According to Wilson, his mindset is no different than it was before. He's just making the plays he needs to in order to help his team win.

"Everyone wants to win the Cup," Wilson said. "I reflected on the season I had and did everything I could to help the team win."

But in that reflection he found a fresh start. And that fresh start was what his coach and teammates said made the biggest difference.

"Anytime you end the regular season and start the playoffs, it's a new season," coach Peter Laviolette said. You've got to make your way. If you remember back then, I had said that he was playing well at the end of the season. His line, with Fisher and [Victor] Arvidsson, really seemed to form some chemistry and became a line that we could count on and started to produce some points."

Fisher also felt the chemistry developing in the final games of the regular season.

"Towards the end of the season you could see it," Fisher said. "He's found another level and he's a big reason why we won this series."

The Predators need Wilson to stay on track as they prepare to play the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of their Western Conference Second Round series on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"When he gets going he's unstoppable," defenseman Roman Josi said. "He's so big and so strong. He really showed that in this series and he came up huge for us."

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