DENVER — Mattias Ekholm ignited the offense early with the first goal by a Nashville defenseman in the series, Pekka Rinne stopped 22 shots and the top-seeded Predators advanced to the second round with a 5-0 victory over the Avalanche in Game 6 on Sunday night.
Austin Watson , Filip Forsberg , Nick Bonino and Viktor Arvidsson also scored to help the Predators move on to face Winnipeg. They were 3-1-1 against the Jets in the regular season.
Nashville removed any sort of drama with two goals in the opening period and two more in the second to hush the capacity crowd. Rinne was on his game in notching his fourth career postseason shutout.
Andrew Hammond ran out of magic in net, allowing five goals.
The third-string goaltender nicknamed “Hamburglar” had 44 saves during a Game 5 win in Nashville to extend the series.
But he couldn’t turn back a formidable Nashville offense that won a second straight playoff contest in Denver. Before this, the Avalanche hadn’t lost two straight at the Pepsi Center since early December.
Watson tormented Colorado with four goals and seven points in the series. In all, 11 of Nashville’s forwards had at least a point over six games.
The one thing missing was contributions from a blue line that tied a franchise record for goals during the regular season. The Predators ‘D’ was held scoreless until Ekholm’s slap shot at 7:20.
Forsberg scored 38 seconds into second to give Nashville a 3-0 lead and completely drain the energy out of the arena. Bonino added another to go with his two assists.
The closest Colorado came to scoring on Rinne was in the second period, when Nikita Zadorov sent in a shot, but it was waved off due to goaltender interference on Carl Soderberg.
It was quite a bounce-back season for Colorado, which boasts one of the youngest teams in the league.
The Avalanche went from a 48-point team in 2016-17 to 95 points this season, earning the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.
The Avalanche is the first NHL team to post that sort of turnaround from one full season to the next since Pittsburgh also jumped 47 points in 2005-06 (58) to 2006-07 (105).
But it ran into a Predators squad that looked every bit like the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final a season ago and won the Presidents’ Trophy this season.
Colton Sissons nearly gave Nashville the early lead in the first period, only to have his goal disallowed when officials ruled Kyle Turris interfered with Hammond. The Predators challenged — Samuel Girard pushed Turris toward Hammond — but the call stood.
About 20 seconds later, Ekholm scored on a slap shot from the point. And then 3:17 later Watson tapped in a shot.
That was all the separation Rinne needed as the Predators improved to 6-6 all-time in a Game 6 situation.