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Stanley Cup Final

Coach's analysis: Inability to finish scoring chances cost Predators

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn believes missed opportunities, especially on power play, was difference against Penguins in Final

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Perry Pearn to break down the action from the Predators' perspective. Pearn will be checking in throughout the Final.

Pearn, 65, has worked 22 seasons as an NHL assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He began his NHL career as an assistant in Winnipeg in 1995-96.

Pearn also has a gold medal as coach (1993) and two golds as an assistant (1990, 1991) for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators fell short of their goal to win the Stanley Cup, but former NHL assistant Perry Pearn sees some bright days ahead for them.

The Predators lost 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Final on Sunday.

"It was a good series for the NHL with two really good-skating teams and two teams with skill," Pearn said. "Both teams competed right to the final buzzer. Nashville isn't going to feel good about the fact they lost, but they accomplished an awful lot as an organization and a team.

 

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"It's a huge hump to get over, to push your way into the Stanley Cup Final. To me they've got a group they'll be able to keep together for a while yet, so that could bode well for the future."

Pearn said finish turned out to be a determining factor in the Final.

"At the end of the day, the difference between the two teams was that Pittsburgh just had more guys who could finish, more top-end finishers," he said. "Those are the guys you need to find a way to score. And in Game 6 it was Patric Hornqvist, who is a veteran who knows how to get to the net and he has enough ability to bat that puck out of the air and off [Predators goalie Pekka] Rinne and in.

"It didn't look like much of a chance but he made it count. So when I look the other way, I think of the quality chances Nashville had on Sunday and I think about James Neal on that rebound in the first period and Colton Sissons on that breakaway in the second when he shot wide.

"Nashville had no goals in the last two games when it counted the most."

Pearn said that he detected a certain nervousness in the crowd at Bridgestone Arena as Game 6 wore on.

Video: Pens win it all, Preds and Sens go on amazing runs

"After all they've done, even those fans seemed a little more tentative than in the first two games in Nashville," he said. "It reminded me of a game I coached in in Ottawa in my first year there [1996-97], when we had to win the last game of the season to get into the playoffs. It was 0-0 late into the third and the fans, who had started out loud, were on edge by the third period. And so was our team. You could feel it wasn't quite as loud.

"Steve Duchene eventually scored for us and put us into the playoffs for the first time, but that evening has stuck with me. [Sunday] I sensed some similarities, that maybe the players were squeezing the sticks a little tighter.

"It's the difference, a real one, between a crowd that's been there before and one that hasn't, and a team that's been there before and one that hasn't."

Pearn said the biggest regret the Predators may have is going 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6, including a 32-second 5-on-3 power play in the third period.

"It was the most critical thing in the game, that they didn't take advantage," Pearn said. "In the last two series, 12 games, the Predators never scored on their [three] 5-on-3s … and that's pretty tough when you don't convert those. In a game like Game 6, you just knew one goal was going to quite likely be the difference."

Video: The guys on the Preds' performance in Game 6

Pearn said the Penguins are to be admired for the patience and poise they showed the longer the series went.

"I think it's what happens when you're ahead in a series, that you can be a bit more patient," he said. "Pittsburgh did pressure but they were smart enough to sense Nashville was coming real hard. They concentrated on holding the fort knowing they'd get an opportunity to go the other way.

"I just kept getting the feeling that Pittsburgh wouldn't make a big mistake to give the game away."

The Penguins' frequent breakouts were the best example of it, Pearn said.

"Nashville couldn't do much about so many Pittsburgh breakouts," he said. "The Penguins did a really good job there. They saw the reverses well and they were good at finding the middle when appropriate.

"The frustrating part if you're a team that likes to forecheck, like Nashville is, that you're not getting much pressure even though you're skating hard. You go back to the bench and then do it again and you still don't get pressure and that wears on you. That's where experience really counts, recognizing it's a 60-minute game and really tight, that you have to stay with it."

Pearn said that Rinne, who was under fire for much of the series, can be proud of his performance in Game 6.

"I thought he was good, real solid in Game 6," he said. "It's a tough goal, that winner, one of those plays off the backboards. They're so tough to be ready on. I can't say anything but good things for the way he played. He's 1:35 away from a shutout in an elimination game."

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