Written by Jeff Miller at The Daily Herald.com
The emotion in the building was obvious now, at this very moment more so than at any other point during the afternoon.
Not when the Ducks scored to tie it or scored again to take the lead or scored a third and then fourth time to officially put away Nashville.
No, this was after the Ducks’ final goal, their least spectacular and memorable during a 5-2 victory, a mostly uncontested score that came after the Predators had pulled goalie Pekka Rinne.
And the emotion couldn’t be heard in the euphoric cheers or felt in the rumbling joy inside a festive and relieved Honda Center.
The emotion could only be seen, seen in the simple act of Ryan Kesler pointing his gloved index finger toward the sky.
“That one was for him,” Kesler would explain later, his grandfather, Jack Hammerschmidt, having died early Saturday.
So, sure, this crucial win gave the Ducks a 3-2 edge in games in this Western Conference first-round playoff series. But it also was significant for a reason almost no one else in this sold-out arena even knew.
That included Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who reacted with surprise when told of Kesler’s postgame explanation.
The heartfelt gesture served as fitting punctuation on a day when the uphill-traveling Ducks again had to reach deep for a comeback after falling behind.
“Just like our whole season,” Kesler said. “That’s how we’ve been doing it all year. Nothing is ever easy for this group.”
And that includes what’s next. Game 6 is set for Monday in Nashville, where Bridgestone Arena will be spilling with noise and anticipation, along with disgust for the visitors.
The Ducks have won there twice already in this series. But neither of those victories, as important as they were, clinched anything.
A win Monday advances the Ducks to the second round and a meeting with San Jose.
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