Imagine the rowdiest party in town being held on your front lawn.
Now imagine not receiving an invitation to that celebration, forced to enviously peer through the front curtains and wonder what it must be like.
For the past two months, the Predators have been the NHL’s lovable gate-crashers, bucking the establishment with Southern-fried, car-smashing enthusiasm.
But status quo prevailed Sunday. The Pittsburgh Penguins, a member of the NHL’s ruling class, hoisted their second consecutive Stanley Cup in a 2-0 Game 6 victory at Bridgestone Arena, becoming the league’s first back-to-back champions in nearly two decades.
With 1:35 remaining, former Predators forward Patric Hornqvist smacked a bouncing puck past Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne for the game-winning goal.
The tension inside Bridgestone Arena on Sunday was suffocating. A whirlwind pace kept the capacity crowd on edge in the Predators' final home game.
The Penguins' previous two games were their strongest in terms of generating, a trend that stretched into Sunday's Game 6. Pittsburgh totaled five high-quality scoring chances in the first period, requiring Rinne to be at his sharpest. Penguins counterpart Matt Murray made eight saves, concluding the first goalless first period of the series.
Nashville thought it had scored an all-important first goal less than 90 seconds into the second period. Forward Filip Forsberg's hard-charging shot dribbled through Murray's pads, the loose puck settling in the crease.
Before Predators center Colton Sissons pool-cued the rebound into the open net, referee Kevin Pollock whistled the play dead, snatching a would-be goal from the home team. Murray later stoned Sissons on a breakaway opportunity. By the end of the second period, Murray had made 56 consecutive saves since Game 4, the disallowed goal notwithstanding.
Murray's mastery continued into the third period when the Predators received and failed to score on a shortened two-man advantage.
A rundown of the Predators’ postseason accomplishments won’t provide much consolation in this heartbreaking moment, but there is optimism that can be extracted from the wreckage.
The Predators’ roster, filled with budding stars and depth difference-makers, is positioned to challenge for championships for the next several seasons.
Nashville’s viability as a hockey destination received international exposure as visiting media swooned over the atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena and how it overflowed into the downtown streets.
Reach Adam Vingan at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamVingan.