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Stanley Cup Final

Predators look to stay on even keel against Penguins

After winning twice at home to tie Stanley Cup Final, Nashville calmly focusing on Game 5

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

NASHVILLE -- There is a raucous volume to a triumphant celebration behind the closed doors of an NHL dressing room, plenty of hoots and hollers and maybe even a little salty language.

All of that was pounding through the walls of the Nashville Predators' dressing room following their 4-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, which tied the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final 2-2 and sent the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

But in the truest tradition of "We've won nothing yet," Predators players both inside and outside the room had the celebration out of their system by the time they met the media, speaking as stone-faced as if they'd lost.

With two convincing home-ice wins against the Penguins, who the Predators outscored 9-2, defenseman Ryan Ellis wasn't buying the theory Nashville has Pittsburgh on its heels.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final series coverage]

 

"That was a good game," said Ellis, who had an assist on what would be Frederick Gaudreau's game-winning goal and blocked two shots in his 23:52 ice time, second-most on the team behind the 25:09 of defenseman P.K. Subban. "It was a back and forth game. They had chances, we had chances. It was much like the first two games in their rink. We capitalized on ours and [goalie Pekka Rinne] was there for us when they had theirs. 

"We go back, watch some video, kind of clean some stuff up, and then it's another big game. … We find ourselves in a best-of-3 now. We've made it a series [but] we still have to win one in their rink."

The Predators returned home trailing the Penguins 2-0 in the series and proceeded to win two straight in the incredible atmosphere of Bridgestone Arena on the strength of timely scoring and Rinne's fabulous goaltending.

The tone of the series suggests the Predators have the Penguins on the ropes, or at least backed a little into a corner.

"You have a little bit of momentum but I think it goes out the window the minute you get on a plane and get going to Pittsburgh, they'll refocus, look over some things," Predators forward James Neal said. "They'll be better and we have to do the same."

Neal did industrial-strength work on the Predators' third goal, winning a rugged battle on the half-wall against Penguins defenseman Ian Cole, diving to shovel the puck to center Mike Fisher.

The Predators captain then dove in desperation to jab a pass to forward Viktor Arvidsson, who split defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Patric Hornqvist of the Penguins, race in alone and snap a shot behind Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

"He's been great, obviously a leader on and off the ice," Neal said of Fisher. "He's just a warrior out there. He blocks everything on [the penalty kill] and he's in front of the net on [the power play]. We use him in everything and he's been great."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm4: Arvidsson finishes Fisher's setup

There remains much work to be done, Subban said, before the Predators can even think about the Stanley Cup, which was in the city Monday for a courtesy call before heading back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Tuesday with caretaker Phil Pritchard.

"We don't even focus on that," Subban said of hockey's holy grail. "It's just the first shift of the game, that's it. We can't look any further ahead than that. Our leadership group and everybody inside the room understand that we have to take it one day at a time. Right now our focus is getting rest [Tuesday], getting rest the next day, and we'll worry about the game when it's game time."

Momentum, Subban believes, is highly overrated.

"I really don't believe in momentum in the playoffs, especially in the Stanley Cup Final," he said. "I said that after Game 2 when we came back. Every shift, everybody knows what's at stake so we're going to go into their building and we're going to have to elevate our game, be better than we've been the last two games for sure.

"I'm sure there are some things we could have done better in Games 3 and 4. We didn't play perfect games by any means, there are still some things that we're going to have to clean up, definitely, if we're going to want to have success in their building. We're going to go back to the board and clean some things up and just get some rest the next two days."

Subban said the Predators have plenty to build on from two games in Pittsburgh. He likes the way Nashville played on Penguins ice, no matter that the Predators lost both. And he figures the Predators being 9-0 in this postseason when carrying a lead into the third period is a tribute to their sharp attention to details.

"I thought we had good starts both games [in Pittsburgh]," he said. "For most of [both] games we played the way we wanted to play. We got pucks deep and forechecked hard, created turnovers, their goaltender made some great saves and they got some luck. We missed some open nets and we had a goal called back in the second game. We just want to continue to do the things that have made us successful so far …

"We just try to do all the right things [when leading after 40 minutes], the little things that help you win, getting pucks in, blocking shots, coming out of the zone as a five-man unit, not blowing the zone. All those things matter when you're up a goal, down a goal or if the game's tied. You've got to do those things consistently.

"The details at this point in the season are so important. Everybody seems to be paying attention to those details. Now it's almost like the first four games are a wash. They don't even matter now."

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