ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Pontus Aberg scored his first career playoff goal with 8:59 to play, and the Nashville Predators moved to the brink of their first Stanley Cup Final with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night.

The Predators almost came storming back in Game 4 to take a commanding lead in the Western Conference final, but the Anaheim Ducks won in overtime after an unlucky Nashville bounce.

The Ducks played without injured forward Rickard Rakell (lower body), whose 33 regular-season goals led Anaheim. In three seasons with Milwaukee, Gaudreau has 101 regular-season points (44-57-101) in 184 games played and five points (3-2-5) in six career games during the Calder Cup Playoffs. Fortunately for the Predators, they got all the secondary scoring they needed in Game 5 against the Ducks.

Gibson has been solid, if unspectacular, for the Ducks this postseason.

Johansen is out for the remainder of the playoffs after having surgery on his left thigh Thursday night. “Like you said, we were missing two pretty big players out there”. The schedule doesn’t allow such a break with both the Predators and Ducks back on planes Sunday for the return trip to Tennessee.

“I think Bernier has proven to us and to the hockey world that he’s a quite capable goaltender”, said Carlyle, who had Bernier for two years in Toronto.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette was forced to shake up his lines, putting Frederick Gaudreau into the lineup for his playoff debut. We’ll get ourselves ready.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was fined $10,000 by the National Hockey League for repeatedly calling referee a “cocksucker” during a matchup against the Nashville Predators Thursday night. This group has done it already, winning games they had to when extinction hovered over it. Games 3 and 4 in Edmonton.

Now that they have a chance to eliminate the Ducks at Bridgestone Arena, there will be a huge sense of urgency to do it now rather than head back to Anaheim for a deciding Game 7. They lead the series 3-2.

The Nashville Predators have become expert finishers, undaunted by deficits or dwindling time on the clock. We have the team.

ABOUT THE DUCKS: The murky status of Gibson – “We can’t risk him”, Carlyle said – could have Anaheim pinnning its must-win hopes on backup Jonathan Bernier, who turned aside 16 of 18 shots Saturday but hasn’t made a start since April 9. “We’ve seen Freddy a couple times”. John Gibson stopped all 10 shots he faced for Anaheim, but had to leave the game with an injury and he is questionable to play today.

Forsberg exemplifies the outstanding conditioning and ability to create an untenable tempo for opponents that has made Nashville so risky late in games.


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