Nashville Earns First-Ever Stanley Cup Finals Berth

Teresa M. Walker, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Colton Sissons scored his third goal with 6:00 left, ensuring the Nashville Predators’ magical postseason now includes the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final after eliminating the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 win in Game 6 on Monday night.

The Predators, who’ve never won even a division title in their 19-year history, came in with the fewest points of any team in these playoffs.

Now they’ve swept the West’s No. 1 seed in Chicago, downed St. Louis in six in the second round and then the Pacific Division champ in six games. Peter Laviolette became the fourth coach to take three different teams to the Final, and the first since the playoffs split into conference play in 1994.

“It feels so good,” Sissons said. “Listen to this crowd. Our fans are amazing, a great group of guys. We just believe in ourselves. That’s all it is.”

The Predators will play either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday.

Anaheim lost in the conference finals for the second time in three years.

Cam Fowler tied it up at 3-3 at 8:52 of the third for Anaheim as the Ducks tried to rally for the fifth time this season when trailing by multiple goals.

But Sissons, who scored on the third shot of the game, scored twice in a wild third period to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:00 and then 4-3 three minutes later.

Austin Watson scored on Nashville’s first shot and had an empty-netter with 1:34 to go. Filip Forsberg also had an empty-net goal.

Pekka Rinne made 38 saves to improve to 12-4.

Ondrej Kase scored his second career goal — both in this series — giving Anaheim a chance to tie the NHL record with a fifth rally when trailing by multiple goals. Chris Wagner banked the puck off Rinne’s head for a goal at 5:00 of the third to keep the Ducks close.

But this has been the best postseason ever for Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a stretch ranking among the NHL’s best. And the 6-foot-5 Finn used his big body to turn away shot after shot even with the Ducks trying to crash the net every opportunity. He helped the Predators improve to 7-3 in one-goal games.

Music City buzzed all day leading up to the puck drop waiting for one of the biggest sports parties this town has ever seen.

Superstar Garth Brooks spoiled the usual mystery of who would sing the national anthem with Twitter hints hours before the game. Sure enough, his wife Trisha Yearwood became the latest to handle the honors. Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George waved the rally towel to crank up the fans.

That didn’t even include the throngs packing the plaza outside the arena’s front doors and the park across the street.

The Ducks, who came in 2-1 when facing elimination this postseason, outshot Nashville 6-2 to start the game trying to force this series back to Anaheim.

But they had goalie Jonathan Bernier making his first career playoff start with John Gibson scratched with a lower-body injury. Gibson, who went out after the first period of Game 5, skated Monday morning only to be scratched with Jhonas Enroth dressed as Bernier’s backup.

Watson’s third this postseason deflected off the left skate of Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour just 81 seconds into the game. Sissons skated on the top line with Ryan Johansen out after needing season-ending surgery on his left thigh and captain Mike Fisher scratched for a second straight game with an upper-body injury.

Notes: Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and coached Philadelphia to the Final in 2010. … The Predators now have clinched five of the six series won in franchise history on home ice. This was their third this postseason.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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