The Nashville Predators fought hard and never gave up but still lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 in Game 6 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Chicago will move on to play the Vancouver Canucks in round two while the Predators will have the summer to recover from painful back to back losses. The Predators have now lost five consecutive first round series dating back to the 2004 season.
Jonathan Toews power play goal with 31 seconds left in the first period ended up being the game winner for the Hawks. The goal capped off a very bizarre first period where seven goals were scored in rapid fire fashion. Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Patric Sharp, and John Madden also scored goals for the Blackhawks while Jason Arnott had two goals and Shea Weber had one for the Predators.
Antti Niemi stopped 25 predators shots in the win while Pekka Rinne was the hard luck loser, stopping 27 shots from the Hawks.
Wild First Period Action…
A total of seven goals were scored in the first period but the strangest one of all occurred at 9:54 when Brent Seabrook attempted to dump the puck into the Preds zone after a face off win. The puck hit Kane’s skate and ricocheted into the Preds net.
Rinne had made the move to go behind the net to stop the puck for the defenseman to set up a breakout. Unfortunately for the Preds, the puck shot straight into the net as Rinne dived to try to stop it.
“It was the biggest game of my life and I was prepared to play,” stated Rinne. “The type of things that happened in the first period was not what I expected.”
Somber Preds Dressing Room…
The Predators dressing room was uncharacteristically quiet and subdued after the season ender. After a disastrous end to Game 5 in Chicago on Saturday, the team brought themselves back to being positive prior to Monday night’s game.
“I am at a loss for words right now,” said Arnott. “We work all season, had a great opportunity, and let it slip away. It’s tough to handle.”
“It was pretty bad timing to have that kind of period in the most important game of the year,” added Rinne.
“It was a game of missed opportunities,” head coach Barry Trotz concluded. “We had plenty of chances on the power play and even right down to the final minute. We didn’t execute and they did, that was the difference.”
The Best Nashville Predator Season Ever…
Trotz waxed over this year’s team after the game. You could sense that this was a team of over-achievers that he was very proud to lead.
“Someone asked me about all the teams that we have had and have been in the playoffs with different growth patterns and different talent and character,” said the Preds coach. “The room itself this year was a real special room. I would play with this team against any other team that we’ve had so far. It had more character. It had more will. It had a lot of the elements that you want that were going to take us to the next level.
“It’s been a real painful process since we’ve been through a lot of adversity. This group was special because I don’t think anybody thought we would do much this year. This group got 100 points, were resilient, and found ways to win and get points. Unfortunately, we had Chicago the other night and we found a way to be there at the end and we let it slip away.
“We came into the series not feeling like underdogs. We won a road playoff game and should have had two wins. I felt very confident had we won tonight, we would go to Chicago and win the series.”
This year’s version of the Predators was one where the players really liked each other and banded together as a team to be better than the sum of the individuals on the ice. They won far more games than they should have and the fans really appreciated their effort and results. After a slow start, the team improved and really hit their stride after the Olympic break.
It was unfortunate that the season ended as abruptly as it did. It will be a long summer for the players that thought they had more hockey in them and for the fans who will have to wait until September for a new sheet of ice and to see what the 2010-11 version of the Predators will bring forth.