Predators advance to the Stanley Cup Final by turning away Ducks' late rally in Game 6

Ryan Kesler slumped in front of his locker in full uniform, a towel draped over his face. Across the Ducks’ dressing room, Corey Perry sat near the door, silent and staring straight ahead, his face a portrait in disappointment.

The Ducks had come back time after time this season, but on Monday night their final rally fell short, with the Nashville Predators riding Colton Sissons’ hat trick and a 38-save effort from goalie Pekka Rinne to a 6-3 victory that will send them on to the Stanley Cup Final while sending the Ducks home for the summer.

“It’s the worst feeling in hockey,” center Ryan Getzlaf said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Your season’s over and you’re not holding the Cup. It doesn’t matter what round it is.”

It doesn’t matter that the Ducks rallied in the final month of the season to win the Pacific Division and entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the NHL. It doesn’t matter that they rallied from a two-game deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the second round or that they twice rallied from two-goal deficits to tie Monday’s game with more than 11 minutes to play.

Nor, finally, does it matter that they outshot the Predators 41-18 in Game 6.

In the end, the only thing that matters is they lost.

“It still hurts,” Getzlaf said. “[We’ve] been tested more than a team’s been tested in a long time.

“That’s been the story of the year. We got behind the eight ball a little bit early in the season, worked our way back into the playoffs. Got down in different games, different series, worked our way back. And eventually you run out of steam when you’re doing that.”

The Ducks had excuses if they wanted to use them. They were without their starting goalie, John Gibson, who was scratched after the morning skate because of a hamstring injury. Rickard Rakell, their leading goal scorer in the regular season, didn’t even make it that far, staying back in California with a lower-body injury.

So when Nick Ritchie was disqualified with a game misconduct penalty in the first period, the Ducks, who were playing their 10th game in 19 days, were left with only 11 forwards.

But no one in the funereal dressing room was interested in excuses. The result was all that mattered.

“The game’s over and your season’s over,” forward Andrew Cogliano said, shaking his head. “To go out like that . . . it’s a tough one.”

Monday’s game, like the Ducks’ season, was a roller-coaster ride. Nashville jumped on Gibson’s understudy, Jonathan Bernier, from the start, with Austin Watson and Sissons putting two of the Predators’ first three shots past him for a 2-0 lead less than nine minutes after the opening faceoff.

Ondrej Kase got one of those back for the Ducks in the second period but Sissons scored again early in the third to restore Nashville’s two-goal lead.

The Ducks weren’t done, though, and when Chris Wagner and Cam Fowler answered by scoring less than four minutes apart, the game was even with more than half a period to play. And when the Predators’ Roman Josi shot the puck over the glass, earning a delay-of-game penalty three minutes later, the Ducks had a chance to go ahead on the power play.

However, Nashville, which gave up just two power-play goals in 18 chances in the series, didn’t give in, and three seconds after killing the Josi penalty, Sissons effectively killed the Ducks by completing his hat trick with six minutes to play, giving him one more goal in Monday’s game then he had in his previous 15 playoff games this season.

Filip Forsberg and Watson added empty-net goals in the final 2:22, and Nashville, which has never won a division title, became the Western Conference champion. The Ducks, meanwhile, have won five straight Pacific Division titles but haven’t reached the Final since 2007, when they won the Cup.

“It’s a very frustrating thing for a group when they . . . work as hard as we did all year, and all game for that matter,” Getzlaf said.

But, he added, “we didn’t get the result we needed.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: kbaxter11

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