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Predators seeking revenge in Cup rematch with Penguins

Nashville, which lost Final in six games, hopes to give Pittsburgh third straight loss

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The last moments are there, indelibly written in their minds: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist scoring with 1:35 remaining in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the pandemonium that ensued, the Cup that was won and lost. The emotion was raw, live-wired. 

It still is. 

That will be on display when the Nashville Predators play the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, ATTSN-PT, FS-TN, NHL.TV) for the first time since Pittsburgh won its second consecutive Stanley Cup, leaving them exultant and Nashville devastated. 

"Obviously it was emotional, it was unbelievable to be in the Finals," said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, who made 28 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. "It was emotional when we lost it. So yeah, it is nice to have an opportunity right away to play against them." 

Will that emotion return? Does it still linger, four months after the celebration and the confetti and the culmination of everything they had worked and bled for? After the dream was demolished in those final 95 seconds of Game 6? 

At first, Rinne demurred. 

"I don't think -- well, in a way, yeah," he said. "You have all those memories in your head. I'm sure you think about them before the game. But still, it is a huge game right now for us. We are down 0-1 this season, so we've got to get back on track." 

No one understands that better than Nick Bonino, who won with the Penguins last season, although he was injured during the Final, then signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Predators in the offseason, switching sides. He, too, believes that feelings will be running high. 

"Guys in here went really far last year, came really close," Bonino said. "It'll be a night of emotions for everyone. At the end of the day, it's two points that we need really bad after tonight." 

Before the Predators' season opener, captain Roman Josi was among the players talking about how special it was to be returning to Pittsburgh. After the game, it looked like there was much more on the line for the Predators and Penguins. 

Nashville didn't look like the team that made the Final last season in the loss on Thursday. Pittsburgh lost its season opener 5-4 in overtime to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday before losing 10-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Thursday. 

"It's a good look in the mirror, I think," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "A good look in the mirror." 

Of course, for the Penguins, this is a familiar place. They know what it is like to defend a title, which they did in winning the Cup last season. They know what it is to be the best and have the rest of the NHL focused on measuring itself against them. 

"It's not easy to be a Stanley Cup winner," Rinne said. "I think everybody [has] froth coming out of your mouth when you have a chance to play against them. So I think every single team wants to beat them. I don't think it's going to be any different for us. 

"We can't expect anything because we made the Finals that we are going to be better than we are. So we've got to prove it all over again." 

That concept for the Predators is new after they made the first Final in franchise history last season. They're learning what that means, for any team, and for them specifically. 

"I think you can take some confidence from [the Cup run] as a team," Laviolette said. "We've built something during the year. We've pushed the limits in the playoffs, so there's some confidence that you can take with that about our group and, in the end, there's some bad that goes with it. That bad can hopefully make you hungry and make you keep your eye on the ball to push a little further." 

That's the plan. Or at least that's the hope. 

For now, there is one game ahead. One game to exact revenge. One game to find their footing. One game to be the team they were throughout the postseason in June, right up until that final night in those final minutes. One game against the team that beat them for the prize they so desperately wanted. 

"Even if you won the Cup last year, even if you're Pittsburgh, they understand that you start all over," defenseman P.K. Subban said. 

Consider this a fresh start, for the Penguins, for the Predators. For the winners. For the losers. A fresh start - with a lingering scent of revenge, that is. 

"I think this is a game we'll get up for, for sure," Bonino said. "I think everybody will be going pretty hard. We didn't have it tonight. … There's no excuses Saturday night. I want to beat my old team. They want to beat a rival. So it should be a fun game." 

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