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Predators venture into unchartered territory after OT win…

When you were picking the Nashville Predators’ #firstgoal contest on Twitter or Facebook this afternoon, be honest, you didn’t pick Kevin Klein. You also wouldn’t have picked Jerred Smithson if there was an #OTgoal contest.

But that’s exactly what happened.

The Nashville Predators rebounded from a disappointing Game 4 loss at home to beat the Anaheim Ducks in overtime, 4-3, at Honda Center. Klein, Joel Ward and Shea Weber scored goals in regulation while Smithson bagged the overtime winner en route to uncharted territory: a 3-2 series lead.

Pekka Rinne made 23 saves in the victory including a point-blank glove save on public enemy #1 Corey Perry in the second period.

Nashville drew first blood on a pretty pass to Klein by Jordin Tootoo. The Ducks would then post the next two before the Preds would tie the game in the third period.

But then, in a moment that Predators fans have seen all too often, the Ducks scored with a little over 6:00 left in regulation to make it 3-2. It just seemed like the organization would once again fall just short of taking a commanding lead in a series.

Enter Shea Weber.

After Ryan Suter raced down the ice to touch up an icing call, Head Coach Barry Trotz paired Cody Franson with Weber for the final push and it paid off. After Mike Fisher won the draw in the Anaheim zone, Franson fed the puck to Weber who one-timed it through traffic and into the back of the net for the tying goal. There was just 0:36 left on the clock when the puck hit the twine, giving Nashville new life.

Once the overtime session started, the Predators wasted no time as Nick Spaling got the puck up to Tootoo who fed the pass through Luca Sbisa’s legs to Smithson who was breaking to the net. Smithson one-timed it past Ray Emery for the first playoff overtime winning goal in franchise history.

The overtime winning goal wasn’t the only franchise first tonight. It was also their first ever Game 5 win, their first ever third win in a playoff series, the first time they’ve won two road games in the playoffs and their first ever 3-2 series lead. And, if you want to throw another log on the fire, goaltender Pekka Rinne was nominated for the franchise’s first Vezina Trophy this morning.

I know I speak for the hundreds of Preds fans who packed the four watch party locations when I say the excitement of that moment is undescribeable. And the fact that Game 6 — at home — is a possible series-clincher is beyond words. The Predators sold just under 1,900 tickets to Sunday’s game between when this blog was posted and the end of the game (roughly two hours). Bridgestone Arena will be louder than it’s ever been and we can’t wait.

Smithson’s goal is the biggest goal in franchise history. Until Sunday.

* All three of Weber’s goals this series have come in Anaheim.
* Tootoo had an incredible game, posting two assists, finishing a plus-2 and with six shots on goal.
* Patric Hornqvist, once again, led all Predators in shots (7).
* Bobby Ryan scored the prettiest goal of the season in the third period. It was… wow.
* JP Dumont saw his first action of the post season tonight. He had two shots on goal and was on the ice for Weber’s game tying goal.
* Martin Erat missed the game with an upper-body injury.
* Shane O’Brien took yet another penalty and, yet again, the Ducks scored while he was in the box. It’s the fifth time this series that O’Brien has been in the sin bin when Anaheim has scored.
* Both of tonight’s NHL playoff games went into OT. The Buffalo Sabres beat the Philadelphia Flyers and the Preds, obviously, beat the Ducks.
* The Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate, won the fifth game of their first round series against the Texas Stars tonight. They now lead the series 3-2.
* Jason Blake had two Anaheim goals.
* Teemu Selanne, the Predator killer, had five shots but was held to a mere one assist in this game. (Albeit a pretty assist).
* Blake Geoffrion and Steve Sullivan were the only Predators to finish with a minus rating (each was minus-1).

1) Jerred Smithson (NSH)
2) Jason Blake (ANA)
3) Bobby Ryan (ANA)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //