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The Nashville Predators fought off elimination against the Anaheim Ducks in Monday’s Game 6 with a 3–1 win that forced a deciding Game 7 in Anaheim on Wednesday.
After a scoreless first period, Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the slot halfway through the second. James Neal then extended the lead later in the period. finishing a 2-on-1 breakaway pass from Ryan Johansen. But Ducks forward Ryan Kesler converted a power-play goal in the waning seconds of the frame to cut Nashville’s lead
A tense third period ensued, but Predators blueliner Shea Weber capped the win with an empty-netter to force the deciding game, the first Game 7 in Nashville's franchise history.
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Here are three thoughts on Monday's game:
Rinne finally outduels Andersen
Much of Game 6 was a goaltenders duel, but it was the Predators’ Pekka Rinne who finally got the best of counterpart Frederik Andersen after losing his first three contests against the Dane (his first two wins of the series came against John Gibson).
Rinne stopped 26 of 27 shots, including a robbery of Anaheim forward Corey Perry on a one-timer near the end of the game, and finally showed that the Preds could rely on him to be a safety net to deny any Anaheim opportunity.
After Saturday’s 5–2 loss, Rinne said, "I feel like I've got to be better. I'm getting outplayed, so have to find a way to stop some pucks."
On Monday, he certainly did just that. If he plays in Game 7 like he did on Monday, it will be extremely difficult for the Ducks to win.
Ducks fail to have killer instinct
It’s a tune all too familiar to the Ducks. For the fourth straight year, they went on the road for Game 6 holding a 3-2 series lead, and for the fourth straight year, they lost. They head back to the Honda Center, having fallen in the last three of those Game 7s (2013 Detroit, 2014 Los Angeles, 2015 Chicago).
While recent history isn’t on the side of the Ducks with Wednesday’s finale on the horizon, it wasn’t on Nashville’s side either, as the Preds were 0-5 in Game 6s when facing elimination.
Now, the Ducks will look to take a page out of Nashville’s book.
Ryan Kesler shines through tragedy
Kesler takes pride in being one of the grittiest players in the league, but he is also showing his resiliency when things have been tough over the last several games.
In Game 5, following a late third-period tally, the Ducks forward pointed skyward to honor his grandfather, Jack Hammerschmidt, who passed away just hours before puck drop.
On Monday, Kesler was the one providing the emotional boost to his teammates by tapping his third goal of the postseason behind Rinne late in the second period, a tally that halved the Predators’ lead and gave the Ducks some much-needed momentum for the third.
With some of the other Ducks’ key players being absent in this series, Kesler’s toughness in the last few games will be crucial and could give them a source of motivation heading into Game 7.