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Predators maintain even keel heading to Game 2

Veterans preaching calm, focus in attempt to even series against Stars

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and the rest of the Nashville Predators' core group are experienced enough to know the emotions of one loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs need to be cast aside quickly.

Their experience will be put to the test in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round against the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (6 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-TN, FS-SW) after the Predators lost Game 1 3-2 on Wednesday.

"We've had plenty of losses under our belt," said Sissons, a forward in his fifth season with the Predators. "It feels like it's five losses in a row right now, but it's just the first game of the playoffs. There's room for improvement. There's areas that we can clean up and be better at, and we'll do that. We know exactly what we need to do."


[RELATED: Full Predators vs. Stars series coverage]


The Predators have qualified for the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, including a six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Sissons was one of 12 players from that Game 6 against the Penguins in the Predators lineup Wednesday, plus Johansen, who missed the 2017 Final because of an injury.

Many of Nashville's core players understand they can't try to even the series against the Stars on experience alone; it's about putting together a complete game and sustaining a quick pace, two factors they believe got away from them in Game 1.

"There's a lot of new faces in our group as well right now so it's about us just coming together and focusing on Game 2," said Johansen, an eight-season NHL veteran forward in his fourth season with Nashville. "We don't need to look in the past and look at things that's happened in past years or whatever. I think it's about our group and looking at the things that we can do better, which we will [Thursday]. And then focusing on going out there as our team right now and finding a way to win Game 2."

Video: Stars win 3-2 as Predators' power play struggles

The Predators got off to the start they wanted in Game 1, controlling possession in the offensive zone and leading 1-0 on a goal by defenseman Roman Josi. The Stars rebounded in the second and third periods on goals by defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forwards Alexander Radulov and Mats Zuccarello to go in front 3-1 before defenseman P.K. Subban scored Nashville's final goal with 6:36 remaining in the third.

Nashville wants to take the positive elements from Game 1 and apply them on a more consistent basis in Game 2.

"Their team game was a little faster there in the second period," Johansen said. "It's not like they were working harder than us or anything like that. They just played a smarter game, which turned out for their team game to have more speed than ours in the second period. And vice versa, when we were doing our thing we looked faster. It felt like we let that one get away from us and just need to be more complete."

The Predators will try to do a better job of creating high-danger chances in the slot in Game 2. They recognize the Stars are skilled at defending that area but believe they can find ways to manufacture quality scoring opportunities.

"There's a lot of things that create that opportunity, but it's just winning some of those puck battles," said forward Mikael Granlund, in his seventh NHL season and first with Nashville after being acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 25. "It's winning 1-on-1 battles and beating your guy to the net and trying to get inside. They play good defense in front of their net, so we've just got to try to find a way to get there. That's going to be a battle the whole series."

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