ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Despite both teams being hobbled by injuries, there was no limping to the finish line as the Nashville Predators topped the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in a frenetic Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
Nashville winger Pontus Aberg scored his first career playoff goal midway through the third period, and it stood as the winner. Pekka Rinne fended off 31 of 32 shots, while Jonathan Bernier made 16 of 18 saves in relief of John Gibson, who stopped all 10 shots against him.
How it happened: Both teams skated hard and often hit harder early in the game. A gorgeous offensive-zone entry sprung Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour, whose shot generated a titillating rebound for Chris Wagner, who opened the scoring with 7:14 left in the second period. The goal energized Anaheim, but the momentum was quelled by a late penalty. With 40 seconds left in the second, Colin Wilson's nifty no-look backhand goal on the power play knotted the score. A frantic third period hinged on Aberg's dashing effort to secure a rebound and swipe the puck home while flying through the air. Aberg was taken back to the dressing room for concussion protocol soon after the goal because of an earlier play where he fell face-first to the ice. He was cleared to continue playing, though he did lose a tooth. Winger Austin Watson added an empty-net goal.
Trainer's table turned triage: Much was made of Nashville's injury situation heading into the game. Leading scorer Ryan Johansen underwent thigh surgery, which ruled him out for the playoffs, and captain Mike Fisher did not play because of an upper-body injury. However, the Ducks had a last-minute scratch in the form of their leading goal scorer,Rickard Rakell, and goalie John Gibson did not return after the first intermission because of a lower-body injury.
What's next: The Predators lead the series 3-2; Game 6 is at 8 p.m. ET Monday. Nashville can close out the series at home and move on to the Stanley Cup finals, while Anaheim will seek to force a decisive seventh game.