One game for all the marbles.
Why would have you expected anything less when the top two teams during the regular season are going head-to-head in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?
It’s a fitting end to a series between two Western Conference powerhouses.
As has been the case throughout this hard-fought series, no team has been able to string together consecutive victories.
Thanks a 4-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night, the Nashville Predators forced a seventh and deciding game on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.
The winner moves on to play the Vegas Golden Knights. The loser goes home to ponder what might have been.
The Jets are now 1-1 in elimination games in these Stanley Cup playoffs, defeating the Minnesota Wild 5-0 in Game 5 of the opening-round series and losing on Monday.
“Both teams throughout the entire season, regular season and playoffs, are tight. They are close battles,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey. “Even in the games when the score isn’t close, (the games) have been a lot closer than maybe a score would reflect or anything like that. Two really good teams battling really hard. It’s tough to win two games in a row.”
The Jets had the best record on home ice in the NHL this season and had won 13 consecutive games before dropping Game 4.
Thanks to Monday’s victory, the best road team in the NHL won two of the three games at Bell MTS Place and gave themselves an opportunity to reach the Western Conference final for a second straight spring.
“There is no momentum in the playoffs. Each game is an all-in game,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “When you have two teams like we have here in this series, what’s given each team success this year is being able to bounce back, fight for 60 minutes. There’s not going to be any quitting on either side. That’s what makes it a great series. That’s what makes the (Preds) a good team and a really tough opponent.”
Just like the Jets first line was a dominant force in a 6-2 victory in Game 5, the Predators top trio answered in Game 6.
For the fourth time in six games this series, it was the Predators that opened the scoring, though it required a video review to get the goal on the board.
Viktor Arivdsson provided the marker on an impressive redirection in front of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
Predators captain Roman Josi unleashed the shot from the left point and Arvidsson tipped it home as he was falling to the ice. The potential goal was waved off immediately, but the call on the ice was correctly overturned just 62 seconds into the contest.
Predators left-winger Filip Forsberg added a pair of goals, including a highlight-reel between the legs special in the third period that put the game out of reach and Arvidsson’s empty-netter round out the scoring.
Along with centre Ryan Johansen’s two assists, the Predators top line combined for eight points, with Forsberg and Arvidsson each producing two goals and a helper.
Although the Jets had the first three power plays of the contest, they were unable to convert on any of them, though they did generate several chances in tight, only to be denied by Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
The best chance for the Jets in the opening period was courtesy of Bryan Little, but he was stopped by the left pad of Rinne.
During the first five games of the series, Rinne wasn’t as sharp as usual and was pulled twice, including Game 5 when he gave up six goals on 26 shots on goal.
After backstopping the Predators to the Stanley Cup final last spring, Rinne was determined to help keep his team’s season alive and he did be delivering a 34-save shutout.
The Jets were disciplined and took only one minor penalty, but their vaunted power play finished the contest zero-for-four.
Little’s availability was in question after he was the lone member of the Jets to skip the morning skate.
Although Jets head coach Paul Maurice didn’t end up needing to change his lineup, he did send a message by keeping Nikolaj Ehlers on the fourth line with Little and Joel Armia.
Ehlers, who scored a career-high 29 goals during the regular season, is having trouble generating offensive chances at his normal rate and is still looking for his first playoff goal.
Mathieu Perreault was used on the second unit with Paul Stastny and Patrik Laine.
Looking for a spark on the fourth line, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette inserted forwards Scott Hartnell and Calle Jarnkrok for trade-deadline acquisition Ryan Hartman and Miikka Salomaki.