The Nashville Predators have had enough "don't" moments in the playoffs, never making it out of the first round. After a 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville will go on to see the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The Ducks? They get to go home, clean out their lockers, make golf times, and wonder if this is how Teemu Selanne finishes his NHL career.
Selanne was the Ducks best player during six games against Nashville. Six goals in six games, four of them on the power play, and that leads everyone thus far. Not bad for a 40 year old who will be 41 in a couple months.
Selanne got the Ducks on the board first at 10:22 of the first period, one of only four shots on goal for the entire period. Unlike the previous five games where the team who scored first went on to win, this one ended up a different result.
The Predators tied things up at 19:32 with a goal from Nick Spaling. It was reminiscent of game 5, when the Predators tied up the game late and went on to win in overtime. A turning point in the series, to be certain.
Steve Sullivan gave Nashville their first lead at 3:29 of the second period, but Jason Blake tied up the game once more at 18:23 with a power play goal. The Ducks power play was blistering hot, and what few advantages they were given, they capitalized as best they could.
At the beginning of the third period, the game did not appear tied for long. Patric Hornqvist put the puck into the net behind Ray Emery, but it was clearly high sticked in and did not count.
That one might have been waived off, but Spaling's second goal of the game at 4:53 was good. The line of Spaling, Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo were Duck killers for the entire series, and this was no exception.
"Nick Spaling is not known for scoring a lot goals, but there he is scoring big goals," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz of a player who has a whopping eight career regular season goals in 102 games. "This series sort of symbolized how the Predators play in a lot of ways. To win this series, we needed everybody and everybody contributed."
The Ducks were unable to get another puck past Pekke Rinne and when Saku Koivu was called for interference with :37.5 seconds left, you know there was nothing the Ducks could do to reverse their fate.
An empty net goal from David Legwand with :10 seconds left sealed the deal for Nashville and sealed the fate of Anaheim. A disheartening way to end the series, but the Ducks had no one to blame but themselves.
"There were a couple of mistakes again – cost a couple of goals," said Selanne. "We couldn't avoid those for some reason. I think the whole series – defensively – we were not as good as we wanted. It was not a problem to score goals, but when you let too many goals and too many mistakes, that really hurt us. I think that was the difference."
That difference now means that Nashville keeps playing and Anaheim does not. For a team that worked as hard as it did to make it into the playoffs, this was not the way they wanted to go out.
Kudos to Nashville, who this season proved to be the better team. The team that meets them in the next round need to be careful. The Predators are a team with confidence and depth. They will be a handy foe to their next competitor.