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Failure to hold leads doomed Predators in series

by Robby Stanley /

CHICAGO -- The Nashville Predators lost three games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round after holding a lead.

The latest, 4-3 in Game 6 on Saturday -- after leading 3-1 -- ended Nashville's season.

Earlier in the best-of-7 series, the Blackhawks came back to win two games that went to double overtime or beyond. 

"Throughout the series, I felt like in some of the games the puck had eyes," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "You look at at least three games, the winners, a couple of [overtime] games and then tonight, just generated from the point and just find a way through the maze.

"Obviously that feels disappointing when you feel like maybe you get a break one of these games. It hit something and doesn't go in. Obviously those ones, I mean it's frustrating. I'll have way too much time on my hands to think about these things."

Chicago won Game 1 on Duncan Keith's double-OT goal from the point, after Nashville led 3-0, and Game 3 on Brent Seabrook's triple-OT goal from the blue line, after Nashville led 2-1.

Keith's third-period shot from the point eliminated the Predators in a game they led 3-1.

Nashville lost captain Shea Weber in Game 2 and played almost four full games without forward Mike Fisher. Younger players, including defenseman Seth Jones and forward Calle Jarnkrok, were forced into larger roles.

"Our guys did an excellent job," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's tough right now for our guys. We planned on coming here and winning the hockey game, so it's difficult when things don't happen, but our young guys have played well in the absence of [Fisher] for some of the series and Shea on the back end. Two big pieces out of our lineup."

Seth Jones
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 4
SOG: 8 | +/-: -6
The Predators had a young lineup that didn't have a lot of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Eight players made their debuts, including leading scorer Filip Forsberg.

"I think we can only get better from here," Jones said. "Everyone's got that much more experience from this year and everyone's going to learn from it."

After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Predators finished second in the Central Division with 104 points. They were near the top of the NHL standings for the majority of Laviolette's first season as coach, and Roman Josi joined Weber as one of the League's elite defensemen.

"Guys came to work," Fisher said. "A lot of guys came to work every day and worked hard. There's so many great teammates on this team. It's disappointing, but we were a close-knit group all year long. A lot of guys played unbelievable for us all year long. We improved a heck of a lot from last year. We're going to keep going, and we're going to win."

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