The Nashville Predators will feature in the NHL Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their history after overcoming the Anaheim Ducks.
Nashville were 6-3 winners in game six of the Western Conference finals on Monday as the Predators advanced to the Final for the first time in their 18 seasons.
Colton Sissons – a sparsely played forward thrust onto Nashville's top line due to injuries – scored his first career hat-trick to see the Predators to a 4-2 series win.
In the absence of Ryan Johansen, lost for the balance of the playoffs, the 23-year-old took over to centre Filip Forsberg and Pontus Aberg and the three contributed four goals and combined for seven points.
An onslaught of injuries rendered Anaheim sitting ducks. Jonathan Bernier, starting in net for the first time in his playoff career in place of number one goalie John Gibson, surrendered four goals on 16 shots. Top forward Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves did not make the trip to Nashville.
The deficiencies were exploited early on by an opportunistic Predators offense, who needed just four shots on net to open a 2-0 lead.
Even with the Duck winning the shot battle 25-8, Nashville took their lead into the third period and Sissons' second goal of the game made it 3-1 three minutes in.
A pair of goals scored two minutes apart by Chris Wagner and Cam Fowler tied the game, but Sissons completed the hat-trick by netting the go-ahead goal with six minutes remaining.
Two empty-netters meant the underdog darlings of the playoffs would indeed go the distance.
The Predators' Peter Laviolette became the fourth coach in NHL history to lead three teams into the Final.
Flip Forsberg, Predators - With a goal and an assist, Forsberg will ride a seven-game point streak into the Cup Final. His 15 points set a franchise playoff record.
Pekka Rinne, Predators - Rinne, like much of these playoffs, was sensational, stopping 38 of 41 shots. Credit his resurgence for the Preds' unlikely run.
Colton Sissons, Predators - Sissons joined Forsberg as the only players in franchise history to score a hat-trick in the playoffs.
Tuesday's game to watch
Eastern Conference finals: Penguins at Senators - The Pittsburgh Penguins' offensive misfortune from earlier in this series seems a distant memory as the defending Stanley Cup champs have cracked the Ottawa Senators' suffocating 1-3-1 trap. They are clicking, outscoring the Sens 10-2 the last two games thanks to a seven-goal outburst in game five. About the only thing in Ottawa's favour: Both teams (the Edmonton Oilers, Ducks) that lost by six or more goals this postseason won their next game and the series.