Throughout the 2016 NHL Playoffs, the Nashville Predators have been shaken, withstood violent shots across the bow and have been knocked down multiple times. Yet, they keep coming back for more. Tonight’s game followed the same narrative.
Forward Viktor Arvidsson scored the game winning goal 2:03 into overtime with a backhand defeating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 and forced a decisive Game 7 Thursday night at the SAP Center in San Jose. This is the Predators’ second Game 7 in these playoffs.
“It’s just the character on our team,” Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “I think all year, we’ve been going through some adversity, and we just never gave up. I think this team always works hard no matter what happens, and we got rewarded for it tonight.”
In the first period, Nashville was down 2-0 with 8 minutes to go in the first period and the normally raucous Bridgestone Arena eerily sounded like a library after the second of Sharks’ Centerman Chris Tierney’s goals beat Nashville’s sprawling goaltender Pekka Rinne.
However, the Predators clawed back into the game in short order!
Preds defenseman Roman Josi scored to make it 2-1 at 15:27 of the first on a shot from the slot. Then, Ryan Johansen tied it 2-2 at 18:35 to go second period on a backhand from in front of the net. Braun made a sweet and swift move to get around Sharks defenseman Justin Braun and scored his fourth goal of the playoffs.
In the third period, Logan Couture scored his sixth goal of the playoffs on the San Jose power play with 10:04 gone. 3-2 Sharks led. Once again, bloodied but heads unbowed, the Predators fought back.
Two minutes and forty seconds later, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro assisted on a Colin Wilson goal that tied the game and sent Bridgestone Arena into euphoria.
“Once we got going and got back to doing things that make us successful, playing Preds hockey, we were unstoppable at times,” Predators center Ryan Johansen said. “We played a great game the last 45 minutes and hats off to every guy in this room and being resilient and not quitting and finding a way to win.”
The Predators will get two consecutive days off for the first time in the playoffs. Considering they played the Anaheim Ducks in round one, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette is grateful for the two-day break.
“I can’t even tell you,” Laviolette said. “We just kept saying let’s get through this game and we’ve got two days. We have not had anything, and it’s been nonstop with the travel and the fact that we’re every other day since the playoffs started. It’s really good for our group. We need that break, and I feel like it’ll give us a push when we go out there for Game 7.”