JOE BIDDLE: Preds take 3-2 lead on road

(AP Photo)

I’ll say one thing.

After five hard-hitting games between the Predators and Ducks in the Western Conference finals, these teams are closer than Siamese twins.

Tied at 2 games each, it seemed the Predators had their backs to the wall for the first time in the playoffs. Captain Mike Fisher and leading scorer Ryan Johansen missed the game, Johansen with a thigh injury that required surgery after Game 4. He is out for the rest of the season.

Despite playing without two of the team’s stars, goalie Pekka Rinne once again came to the rescue. The veteran goalie stopped 32 shots.

Noting that they were missing the two teammates, Rinne said before Game 5 that in those cases, “You want to be a difference maker.’’

Mission accomplished.

Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the Predators tied the game and evened the game at 1-all on a late power play goal by Colin Wilson. Wilson got a rebound and buried a backhander for the goal.

The two teams were running on guts and it was anyone’s game in the third period.

The Predators went ahead 2-1 on a third period goal by Pontus Aberg, with assists by Filip Forsberg and Mattial Ekholm. Ekholm put a laser shot by teammate Filip Forsberg in the net on goalie Jonathan Bernier. Bernier had replaced Ducks goalie John Gibson in the second period.

It was a nasty scene in the end as players from both teams were going at each other. It was almost more than the officials could contain.

But the only thing than counted was a 3-1 win for the Preds and increasing the Preds lead to 3 games to 2 with the series returning to Nashville.

Game 6 is at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena and the Preds can claim a ticket to the Stanley Cup finals with a win.

Needless to say it would be the franchise’s first time to play for the Stanley Cup.

The Ducks will show up Monday. A welcoming sellout crowd will be there, in full throat and an unknown number of catfish.

“We didn’t have a good start at the last game at home,’’ Rinne said. “We can’t afford to do that in the next game.

It’s what makes the NHL playoffs the best of all professional sports.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at