In the highest-scoring playoff period in franchise history, it is the one goal that stood above all others.
Not for its majesty or accuracy. It was the sheer absurdity of Patrick Kane’s goal at 9:54 of the opening period, the third of a combined seven, that left an indelible mark on the minds of the Nashville Predators players and the sellout crowd of 17,113 packed into Bridgestone Arena for Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series between the Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
It wasn’t the game-winner or even a back-breaker. In reality, it was just one in a game that ultimately ended the Predators' season.
A 5-3 defeat brought to a close the series after six games as Nashville failed for the fifth time in as many tries to advance beyond the opening round of the playoffs. It also failed for the fifth time in as many tries to extend a postseason series when it faced elimination.
“During the game, I tried to put it behind me,” goalie Pekka Rinne said of Kane’s goal. “As I sit here now, you ask yourself why that would happen in such an important game. … It’s hard to understand, and you start second-guessing yourself.
“It’s probably going to be on my mind for a few days.”
With the score tied 1-1, Rinne correctly read that Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith planned a hard wrap-around from the neutral zone, so the Nashville goalie went to the left of his net and intended to cut off the puck.
Rather than ride the boards, Keith’s attempt at a dump-in ricocheted almost immediately off Kane’s skate and set a course for the net Rinne had just vacated. Before the 6-foot-5 netminder had time to scramble back into position, the puck was past him and across the goal line.
For a team that two days earlier had surrendered a lead in the final seconds of regulation and lost in overtime, it seemed to be the worst thing that could have happened.
“It was a fluke goal,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “… At that moment, you’re going, ‘What else can you pile on us now, emotionally?’ ”
A little more than two minutes later the Predators trailed 3-1, but they responded and pulled even on a pair of goals by Jason Arnott — his first two of the series — the second with 55 seconds to play before the first intermission.
“Especially coming off the last game’s ending, what a fortunate bounce,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Sometimes, you get a break like that. But we didn’t take advantage of it the way we should have.”
They did get out of the period with a one-goal lead, though. Jonathan Toews scored seven seconds into a power play, which began with 38 seconds left in the period. None of the first four games of the series had a total of seven goals, let alone that many in a period.
After that, neither side scored until John Madden’s empty-net goal with 7.8 seconds to go. That despite the fact that Chicago had four second-period power plays, one of them for four minutes, and the Predators had three in the third.
“You talk about the last period [Saturday] in Chicago and the first period here, I don’t want to say chaos … it was wild. It was wild out there,” Trotz said. “Joel tried to reel his team in, and I tried to reel our team in.
“They were coming out to put the dagger in us, and we were determined not to let them do it. It got real wild there and then settled in in the second and third.”
Despite the unusual start, the finish to this game was all too familiar. All five times Nashville has been eliminated from the playoffs, the end has come in its own building.
“I can only talk about myself,” Rinne said. “The last two games, with a little better luck or a couple extra saves, we could be in a different position.
“I expected a lot of myself. I expected to play my best game of the year [Monday] night.”
He just never expected that one puck to end up in his net.