Stanley Cup Final: Nashville Predators might get captain Mike Fisher back

Stanley Cup Final: Nashville Predators might get captain Mike Fisher back

Well, as long as they can get by Nashville. The only time he did was with Seth Jones, who he traded to fill a huge gap: top center Ryan Johansen.

Credit coach Mike Sullivan's ever-prescient tinkering with the lineups, including his decision to throw Kunitz back into the fray with Crosby as Game 7 wore on, an experiment that ended with Crosby feeding Kunitz for the victor 5:09 into the second overtime.

Johansen's injury, though, seemed to be a series changer.

However, Nashville, which gave up just two power-play goals in 18 chances in the series, didn't give in, and three seconds after killing the Josi penalty, Sissons effectively killed the Ducks by completing his hat trick with six minutes to play, giving him one more goal in Monday's game then he had in his previous 15 playoff games this season.

Fans and some experts thought that was probably the end of Nashville's playoff run. "I skated a few days here". I wasn't buying it, though.

Poile and the Predators had to teach their fans hockey and grow the sport in a region dominated by college football and NASCAR.

"In the back of your head, you've been thinking about the Finals and then when the buzzer goes off, it's an unbelievable feeling", Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. Pittsburgh will look to continue building their legacy as one of the best franchises during the salary cap era. It's been working and uh, but obviously - new series, new game.

From the opening drop of the puck, the Ducks were all over Nashville.

But this has been the best postseason ever for Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a stretch ranking among the NHL's best.

After starter John Gibson left the game after the first period in Game 5, Bernier would take over the net.

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"We are using the time to regroup, relax and rest up after a lot of hockey played with speed and intensity", Irwin said of the rare playoff break. Maybe. But he wasn't and the Predators took advantage.

Pittsburgh's best are playing like their best and that poses an issue for whatever team the Penguins face. His team won the Stanley Cup previous year in part because it had a capable backup (Matt Murray) ready to step in when its starter got injured. It thwarts the other team's attempt to sustain pressure in the offensive zone, and in the event of a wholesale line change, a well-timed Rinne interception and stretch pass could spring an awaiting forward on a breakaway from the far blue line. Some might say the lack of experience in stressful, game-breaking situations is a disservice to the Preds, but that conserved energy will come in handy in the second month of these playoffs. It can be taxing.

Poile kept the Predators competitive through lean times when it appeared unstable ownership might lead to the franchise leaving town. Laviolette and Sullivan might still, but the Predators' hyper-focused coach isn't thinking about it as a special occasion while preparing for Game 1 in Pittsburgh on Monday night. And they defended their Arrowhead Pond with ample valiance, winning Games 3, 4 and 6 against the experienced Devils, who eventually claimed Game 7 and their third Cup in nine years back in New Jersey.

In both games, Nashville went after the game after those instances, instead of sitting back.

"To take those pieces out is hard - those are big pieces", Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.

In game 6, the Ducks more than doubled the number of shots on goal the Predators had, but they could only muster half the number of makes.

Don't kid yourself. There's no solace in losing to the eventual champion, no retroactive relief that somehow makes scoring three goals in a four-game sweep as the conference's top seed less embarrassing, less painful. "It's the most important game in our career".

After Nashville ousted Anaheim in six games Monday night, Rinne now is even stingier on home ice with a 7-1 record, 1.54 GAA and.947 save percentage.

While missing top guys can hurt a lineup, it also gives guys like the ones mentioned above the opportunity to show what they got and contribute.

What a matchup we have for the Stanley Cup Final. And in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators have gone 12-4, while the Penguins have gone 12-7. Regardless of who they play, they'll have a great chance to win it.

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