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The Nashville Predators have gone on a magical run in the postseason. With Peter Laviolette at the helm it should come as no surprise.
USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Less than four miles from Honda Center in Anaheim stands Disneyland, the physical embodiment of a world where all dreams come true. 

The Disney empire was built on happily ever afters, a dose of magic that the down-on-their-luck Predators seriously needed Saturday in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks. 

A championship opportunity within reach, injuries to leading scorer Ryan Johansen and captain Mike Fisher left the Predators suddenly shorthanded.

Their Stanley Cup path appeared to darken, but then the Predators wished upon an unlikely star. 

Rookie forward Pontus Aberg’s first career NHL playoff goal clinched the Predators’ 3-1 win, improbably placing them one victory from the Stanley Cup finals. They can advance there Monday evening at Bridgestone Arena. 

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Near the midway point of the third period, an airborne Aberg deposited a rebound past Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Forward Austin Watson threw in an empty-netter with 47.2 seconds left. 

If Saturday’s game were a Disney-produced sports movie, it would’ve been the part of the film where the ragtag leftovers rallied around their missing teammates. 

The Predators’ improvised forward lineup Saturday had a preseason-like quality to it, but it wasn’t outmatched in an incredible physical game.

The Ducks experienced their own misfortune Saturday, starting with a pregame announcement that top forward Rickard Rakell wouldn’t play because of injury. A lower-body injury removed Ducks goalie John Gibson from the game following first intermission, forcing Bernier into unexpected action. 

Anaheim scored first, converting on a rush attempt in the second period when forward Chris Wagner potted the rebound of defenseman Brandon Montour’s shot. The Predators countered with a late power-play goal, with forward Colin Wilson whipping a no-look backhand past Bernier.

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Reach Adam Vingan at avingan@tennessean.com and on Twitter @AdamVingan.

PREDATORS vs. DUCKS

Predators lead series 3-2

All games broadcast on 102.5-FM

Game 1: Nashville 3, Anaheim 2 (OT)

Game 2: Anaheim 5, Nashville 3

Game 3: Nashville 2, Anaheim 1

Game 4: Anaheim 3, Nashville 2 (OT)

Game 5: Nashville 3, Anaheim 1

Monday: at Nashville7 p.m. (NBC SN)

x — Wednesday: at Anaheim, 8 p.m. (NBC SN)

x — if necessary