DENVER — Mattias Ekholm ignited the offence early with the first goal by a Nashville defenceman in the series, Pekka Rinne stopped 22 shots and the top-seeded Predators advanced to the second round with a 5-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 on Sunday night.
Nashville removed any sort of drama with two goals in the opening period and two more in the second to hush the capacity crowd. Rinne was on his game in notching his fourth career post-season shutout.
Andrew Hammond ran out of magic in net, allowing five goals. The third-string goaltender nicknamed "Hamburglar" had 44 saves during a Game 5 win in Nashville to extend the series. But he couldn’t turn back a formidable Nashville offence that won a second straight playoff contest in Denver. Before this, the Avalanche hadn’t lost two straight at the Pepsi Center since early December.
Watson tormented Colorado with four goals and seven points in the series. In all, 11 of Nashville’s forwards had at least a point over six games.
The one thing missing was contributions from a blue line that tied a franchise record for goals during the regular season. The Predators ‘D’ was held scoreless until Ekholm’s slap shot at 7:20.
Forsberg scored 38 seconds into second to give Nashville a 3-0 lead and completely drain the energy out of the arena. Bonino added another to go with his two assists.
The closest Colorado came to scoring on Rinne was in the second period, when Nikita Zadorov sent in a shot, but it was waved off due to goaltender interference on Carl Soderberg.
It was quite a bounce-back season for Colorado, which boasts one of the youngest teams in the league. The Avalanche went from a 48-point team in 2016-17 to 95 points this season, earning the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. The Avs are the first NHL team to post that sort of turnaround from one full season to the next since Pittsburgh also jumped 47 points in 2005-06 (58) to ’06-07 (105).
But they ran into a Predators squad that looked every bit like the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago and won the Presidents’ Trophy this season.
Colton Sissons nearly gave Nashville the early lead in the first period, only to have his goal disallowed when officials ruled Kyle Turris interfered with Hammond. The Predators challenged — Samuel Girard pushed Turris toward Hammond — but the call stood.
About 20 seconds later, Ekholm scored on a slap shot from the point. And then 3:17 later Watson tapped in a shot. That was all the separation Rinne needed as the Predators improved to 6-6 all-time in a Game 6 situation.
NOTES: Sissons had two assists. … D P.K. Subban took a hit to the face in the first period, but quickly shook it off. .. RW Ryan Hartman was a scratch after being suspended for Game 5 for a hit on Soderberg. … Zadorov was given a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the second period. … Hammond was thrust into action for the third period of Game 4 when Jonathan Bernier went down with a lower-body injury. Bernier was filling in with starter Semyon Varlamov sidelined by a knee injury.