The Nashville Predators approached their first-ever Western Conference Final appearance fully aware of the challenge and opportunity before them.
In the third postseason meeting with the Anaheim Ducks, the Predators had to continue without forward Kevin Fiala (who suffered a season-ending injury in Game One of Round Two). But the injuries did not stop there for the Predators.
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Predators traveled to Anaheim without Captain Mike Fisher and first-line center Ryan Johansen for Game 5. The Predators had to rely on young talent to take the top-two centers' place and continue the fight for the series; their faith was rewarded. In the third period, rookie Pontus Aberg scored the game-winning-goal to give the Predators a 2-1 lead, followed by an empty-net goal from Austin Watson.
The Preds returned home for Game 6 with Craig Smith out of the lineup, in addition to still missing Fisher and Johansen, but they refused to give up. A stellar 38-save performance from goaltender Pekka Rinne was key in the Game 6 victory, but a hat trick from Colton Sissons's gave the Preds a 4-3 advantage with 6:00 left in the third period.
"It feels good; I'm not going to lie," Sissons said. "I don't think I even dreamt of this moment, scoring a hat trick in a Western Conference-clinching game. I can't speak enough for just our whole group. We've been through some challenges together and we stuck together no matter what, just believed and here we are."
Filip Forsberg recorded his 14th career postseason tally to become Nashville's all-time leading goal-scorer in the postseason with his empty-net goal in the final minutes.
Just a few moments later, the Predators became Western Conference Champions and were awarded the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, earning a place in their first ever Stanley Cup Final.
Before the puck drops on the franchise's 20th season this fall, NashvillePredators.com is taking a look back at the team's historic run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Enjoy the best sights and sounds from the Western Conference Final.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm1: Neal nets Subban's feed for OT win
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm3: Josi buries PPG for late lead
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Aberg lays out to net go-ahead goal
Video: Colton Sissons nets hat trick as Preds win the West
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Sissons floats a wrister past Bernier
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Sissons completes hat trick for lead
Video: Nashville Predators - How they got there
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm6: Predators awarded Campbell Bowl