The Nashville Predators came into the Stanley Cup Playoffs looking for redemption after they were eliminated in Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year in the Stanley Cup Final. In order to stay motivated, they are using the catchphrase “61:35”. This symbolizes the 1:35 remaining in Game 6 before Patric Hornqvist scored to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead, and the 60:00 means the time elapsed in Game 7 before they had the opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup. This year, they were able to come into the playoffs with home ice advantage throughout all four rounds. They ended the regular season as Presidents’ Trophy winners, Central Division Champions, and regular season Western Conference Champions.
Nashville began the playoffs at home on April 12 against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche came into the playoffs without one of their top defenseman, Erik Johnson, and starting goaltender, Semyon Varlamov. The Predators started the series without Calle Jarnkrok, who didn’t finish the regular season due to an upper body injury. Even without one of their centers, the Nashville maintained their depth by putting Miikka Salomaki in his place in the lineup.
Game 1 began with the Avalanche notching the first goal of the series on their first shot on goal just 6:36 into the first period. The goal came from a wrist shot by Nikita Zadorov to give the Avalanche an early 1-0 lead. The Predators however, would come back in the second period to tie the game at 2-2 at the end of 40 minutes with goals from Austin Watson and Craig Smith. With 7:50 remaining in regulation, Filip Forsberg put the puck between his legs, between Samuel Girard’s legs, and beat Jonathan Bernier glove side to give the Preds a two-goal lead. The Predators took the 1-0 series lead with a 5-2 win in Game 1.
Game 2, in the same fashion as Game 1, the Avalanche gained the lead early in the first period with a shot from former Predator, Gabriel Bourque, on the first shot on goal. However, the lead got reversed in the second period. The Predators scored three times to take the lead with goals by Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, and Ryan Johansen, but would be unsuccessful in holding off Colorado’s top liner, Nathan MacKinnon, as he scored to make it 3-2 going into the third period. The score in the third period would continue to be back and forth, but the Preds would maintain strong defense and win Game 2, with a final score of 5-4, and head to Denver, Colorado with a 2-0 lead on the series.
The Preds took the ice in enemy territory for Game 3. The Avalanche came out to a strong 4-0 lead in the first period. Because of this tremendous lead, the Preds decided to pull Pekka Rinne and put in Juuse Saros to start the second period. With 9:37 remaining in the second period, Johansen gave the Preds their first goal of the night as he jammed home the rebound from the original shot from Forsberg on the two-man advantage. The Preds were trying to tie the game up by pulling the goalie, but the Avalanche were awarded a goal as Fiala interfered with Landeskog while he headed towards the empty net. The Preds were unsuccessful in getting their third victory, but still led the series 2-1.
Nashville as looking for their third win in the series in the Pepsi Center for Game 4. In typical Forsberg fashion, he retrieved the puck on the wing with a pass from Johansen, went around Duncan Siemens, and tucked it past Bernier to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. The Preds had a 3-0 lead with 14:40 remaining in regulation when Gabriel Landeskog sent a wicked wrister past Rinne to give the Avalanche their first goal of the night. Just 5:30 later, Alexander Kerfoot scored his first of the playoffs to bring the goal differential within one. Peter Laviolette challenged the goal for goalie interference, but the situation room in Toronto determined that there was no goalie interference and was deemed a good goal. Rinne continued to be a wall for the remaining minutes, and the Preds took a 3-1 series lead heading back home to Nashville for Game 5.
Ryan Hartman was assessed a suspension for an illegal check to the head on Landeskog making him unavailable for Game 5. The Avalanche were without their backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, due to an injury. Andrew Hammond would take his place between the pipes. The game went 50:18 before Nick Bonino tipped-in an original shot from Mattias Ekholm to give the Nashville a 1-0 lead. The MacKinnon line striked over five minutes later as Ryan Ellis accidentally fell on Rinne giving him the inability to make the save on Landeskog as he tied the game at 1. Three minutes later the Avalanche had a 2-on-1 opportunity to take the lead with less than two minutes left in regulation. The Avalanche notched their second victory to make it a 3-2 series.
The Predators then headed back to Denver looking for their fourth and final win before they moved on to the Western Conference Semifinals. The Predators scored early in the first, but it was waved off immediately due to goaltender interference. Within a few minutes after the “no goal” call, Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring for the Preds and gave them the lead early in the first period. The Preds later scored four more goals by Bonino, Watson, Forsberg and Arvidsson to close out the series with a 5-0 shutout for Rinne.
Nashville beat the Colorado Avalanche in six games to advance to Round 2 to face the Winnipeg Jets. Pekka Rinne recorded the first ever shutout in a series deciding game in franchise history. Watson and Forsberg each tallied 4 goals to lead the teams in scoring. As well as leading in playoff goals, Watson also leads the teams in points with seven.