Pontus Aberg’s goal with 8:59 left in the third period helped the Nashville Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in Game 5 and move a win away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Anaheim goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who entered the game after John Gibson suffered a lower-body injury in the first period, had a difficult time with rebound control in the 40 minutes he played. That issue helped cause Aberg’s winner after the Nashville forward pounced on a loose puck in front and tucked home his first career playoff goal.
Aberg, who left the game to be evaluated for a concussion minutes after his goal, last scored for the Predators six months ago — Nov. 17 versus Ottawa.
The Predators were trailing 1-0 late in the second period on a Chris Wagner goal when they took advantage of one of their two power play opportunities. With under a minute to go in the period and time winding down on their man advantage, P.K. Subban’s wrister from the point was knocked down in front and after a brief scramble Colin Wilson was there to backhand it by Bernier.
Once Nashville went up 2-1 they didn’t sit back and go into a shell to protect their lead. They kept playing an aggressive style, pushing the pace and trying for a third goal. As Anaheim pressed to tie the game with their net empty, Auston Watson put the game out of reach with with 47.2 seconds to go.
It was a huge, emotional win for the Predators who were already without their captain, Mike Fisher, and learned Friday that their No. 1 center, Ryan Johansen, would miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Now they head home to Bridgestone Arena with a 3-2 lead in the series knowing a win closes out the Ducks and makes them the first team to clinch a spot in the Cup Final.
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