Reporting from Nashville
It may not be a story Teemu Selanne tells when his grandkids cluster around him, but the fact is this will always be the answer to a Tennessee trivia question:
Whom did Nashville beat to finally win a Stanley Cup playoff series?
Answer: The Ducks.
The Predators, only two days removed from the giddy feeling that came from stealing Game 5, found even greater happiness at home. Their 4-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena washed away five first-round losses.
"It's nice to win in the first round," defenseman Shea Weber said. "But that's not our goal. We want to win the Stanley Cup."
People might not snicker so much when hearing that now.
"This is huge," defenseman Ryan Suter said.
Nashville, an expansion team in 1998, tried to fit right in from the start.
Looking north, seeing Detroit as "Hockeytown," they proclaimed Nashville "Smashville." Red Wings fans throw octopus on the ice, a symbolic gesture dating to the days when it took eight victories to win the Cup. Predators fans started throwing catfish, symbolizing that they have catfish in Tennessee.
But the Predators stepped out of the wannabe category Sunday, on the strength of their defensive stability and offensive relentlessness.
That left the Ducks with that long walk during the traditional postgame handshakes. Selanne, who at 40 will now decide whether to retire, said the moment was "obviously disappointing and I did not really have time to think about anything more than that."
Selanne, who scored his sixth goal of the series to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the game, said he did not have a timeframe on his decision.
"Nobody tried harder, nobody cared more, nobody did more in this series than Teemu Selanne," Coach Randy Carlyle said. "And it's an emotional time for him right now, because of what happened. There is always that looming thing, 'Is this the last one?' I'm sure he doesn't want to go out feeling the way he does right now."
Which Duck would feel like that Sunday? But they reaped what they sowed defensively.
Nashville's Nick Spaling scored two goals, the second when he crashed the net as Ducks defenseman Andreas Lilja, chasing Jordin Tootoo, crashed into goaltender Ray Emery. Spaling was able to chip the puck over the two bodies for a 3-2 lead five minutes into the third period.
From that point, the Predators had to endure waves of pressure until David Legwand scored an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left.
"All I'm going to say is that I'm glad to have a defib machine right on the bench," Coach Barry Trotz said.
Selanne hit the post late in the third period. Brandon McMillan had an open net, but the centering pass was just out of reach.
Offense, though, wasn't the problem. Said Carlyle: "We scored enough goals to win. The whole series, we were not playing enough defense."
The defensive breakdowns Sunday had roots in the Game 5 defeat, which the Predators won in overtime after Weber tied the score with 35 seconds left.
"That kind of put a dagger in us," Carlyle said.
Still, the Ducks began the third period tied, 2-2, on goals by Selanne and Jason Blake, but the loopholes in the Ducks defense were showing.
"Just a couple mistakes again cost us goals," Selanne said. "We couldn't avoid those."