Viktor Arvidsson scored at 2:03 of the first overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 4-3 victory in Game Six over the San Jose Sharks to even the series at 3-3. The result forces a Game Seven for the second time in as many rounds for the Preds, officially the furthest they’ve ever advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nashville has played their best hockey when it’s mattered most in these playoffs. Monday night was no exception.
“We have really good leadership in the room - I’ve said that all along,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Ultimately, those are the guys that pull the rope. When you’re down like that, it can be frustrating. We were a little slow getting off the mark, they had that redirect, then a rebound goal, and then were able to jump up 2-0. You never know what’s going to happen at that point. I think [Josi’s] goal, with five minutes or so left to go in the first period, was really important. It injected some life into us.
“After that [goal], we came out in the second period and really put our foot on the gas pedal.”
Chris Tierney got the Sharks out in front with not one, but two goals, less than two minutes apart from each other midway through the first for a 2-0 lead. The Preds needed a bounce, and they received one, courtesy of Roman Josi. The defenseman came down the slot and threw a puck toward the net that deflected off a Sharks defender and behind Martin Jones at 15:27 to get the Predators on the board before the opening frame was out.
Once the second stanza commenced, it took only 1:25 for Ryan Johansen to even the score. Defenseman Ryan Ellis found Johansen down low, and the centerman walked around Justin Braun on his way to the net, before sneaking a backhander through Jones for a 2-2 draw heading into the third period.
In the final frame, it was Logan Couture who scored on the power play to give San Jose a lead once more, but as they’ve done before, the Preds refused to quit and put together a nifty passing play when it mattered most. Mike Ribeiro found James Neal at the right circle, who found Colin Wilson waiting at the side of the net for his fifth goal of the playoffs, giving the Preds a 3-3 tie and sending the home crowd into a frenzy. And for the second time in three games, overtime was a necessity.
Just over two minutes into the extra session, Miikka Salomaki found Arvidsson streaking up the ice. The speedy winger hit the left circle and roofed a shot to the top right corner of the twine, sealing one more date in San Jose on Thursday night.
“It felt really good, awesome,” Arvidsson said of his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal. “It was a great feeling to see the puck go in the net. It was awesome.”
The belief in the Nashville locker room has never wavered in these playoffs. The club has found a way to keep their dream alive, in both Games Six and Seven against Anaheim in the First Round, before a Mike Fisher goal in triple overtime of Game Four against San Jose put one more exclamation point on the run.
“We believe in each other, and we believe in our game plan,” Arvidsson said. “I think we really hung in there today and just kept playing our game, and the result was good.”
“A lot of character,” Josi said of his team’s resolve in Game Six. “I thought after that first period, everybody was going and everybody was playing well. We had a lot of chances in the third or the second period, and it’s just a lot of character. We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year, and I think that definitely helps us now.”
As they’ve reaffirmed throughout the postseason, they haven’t accomplished anything just yet, but the Preds know that each small triumph has the potential to ultimately lead to something much greater. Another Game Seven now awaits.
“This is our journey, and of course I believe in that,” Rinne said. “I believe this is our year, and you’ve got to take ownership. You try to do everything you can to make it happen, and obviously we aren’t even halfway yet; but we’ve been playing a lot of hockey, and hopefully it continues.”
Gif of the Game:
Viktor Arvidsson’s rising backhander converts at the perfect time.
Peter Laviolette on the Preds fans in Game Six:
“I have to tell you, the fans tonight were just incredible. The building was unbelievable, and when you come down from elimination games, last round and this round, and you have a building like we do… the energy that we draw from that, that we pull from that, I can’t even tell you how important that is for our group. It was a great environment.”
Viktor Arvidsson is the first Preds player in franchise history to score his first career playoff goal in overtime.
Colin Wilson is on a seven-game point streak, adding to his postseason, franchise record. James Neal is on a four-game point streak.
The Preds are 4-7 all-time in postseason overtime and are 2-0 in these playoffs.
This is the first time the Preds have ever advanced past Game Six of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This will also be the latest the Predators have ever played on the calendar. Nashville has also set a franchise record with seven playoff victories.
A decisive Game Seven between the Preds and the Sharks comes Thursday night in San Jose at the SAP Center. A start time is yet to be announced.
Head Coach Peter Laviolette’s quote sums up the Predators appreciation to their fans in the team’s fourth consecutive win at home.
Infographic: Preds Win Again in OT