May 8, 2011, 12:10 PM EDT
The Nashville Predators are in uncharted territory for their slowly (but wisely) improving franchise. They already reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in their history by dispatching the Anaheim Ducks in six games, but last night marked their first win while staring down their own elimination.
Five times before it, the Predators found themselves on the verge of an involuntary early vacation and blinked. This time around, though, they managed to win a dramatic 4-3 Game 5 against the Vancouver Canucks on the strength of Joel Ward‘s three-point performance.
Of course, the Predators wouldn’t have gotten this far without their Vezina-quality goalie Pekka Rinne, who made 31 saves in Game 5. Rinne has only been a big part of this team for the last three seasons, but it wasn’t lost on him how important this victory was for the team.
Here’s what he told NHL.com about the W.
Q: What does this win say about your team’s resiliency?
A: That’s the way we are. We’ve done this during the regular season many times, but obviously this is the biggest game so far for us probably in the Preds’ history. For the organization it’s the biggest game ever, and we did a great job. We battled hard, came really strong in the third period, got two big goals from Joel Ward and at the end showed a lot of character, blocking shots, doing the little things, just playing for the team.
Q: You think this is bigger than winning Game 6 against Anaheim to win the first series in franchise history?
A: Oh yeah, it’s second round. At the moment that was the biggest step for our franchise, winning the first round, but now we’re living in a different series and living a new experience. So far this was the biggest win for us.
If a Game 5 win was significant, one can only imagine how a big (dare we say it?) Game 7 victory could be. That would mark another first in franchise history, but to get that chance they need to win against Vancouver again on Monday.
(Perhaps that would be the biggest home win in Predators history, then?)
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