May 20, 2017
Pontus Aberg scored the game-winning goal with just under 9 minutes left in the 3rd period, and the Predators defeated the Ducks 3-1 in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Nashville has a 3-2 series lead, one game away from eliminating the Ducks and moving on to the Stanley Cup Final.
Aberg dove across the crease to swat home a rebound on a shot by Filip Forsberg, which was his first-career playoff goal. Aberg face planted on the play, lost a tooth, and was taken off the ice for medical evaluation. However, he was ok and the decisive goal pushed the Ducks to the brink of elimination.
Austin Watson added an empty-netter with 48 seconds left to play. Moments earlier Jakob Silfverberg broke his stick, allowing Watson to shoot the puck from his own end, down the ice into the empty cage.
Both teams were plagued by injuries to key players. The Predators overcame the absence of top scorer Ryan Johansen and captain Mike Fisher. The Ducks were missing two of their top scorers in Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves. They also lost goaltender John Gibson after the 1st period, after he left with a lower body injury.
Gibson was replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 16 shots in relief. On the other side, Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for Nashville, which has won 5 of their last 7 playoff games in Anaheim.
After a scoreless 1st period, both teams exchanged goals in the 2nd period. Chris Wagner scored on a rebound from a shot by Brandon Montour. It was Wagner’s 2nd career playoff goal.
Nashville got even with 40 seconds left in the 2nd. Colin Wilson pounced on a rebound in front of Bernier, which game came on the power play.
Game 6 of the series will be Monday night in Nashville. The Ducks will try to avoid being eliminated by the Predators for the 2nd year in a row, and eliminated from the conference finals for the 2nd time in the last 3 years.