PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have used the experience they gained last year as their guide throughout the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now with a 2-0 lead against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final, they have a chance to use it again.
It was exactly one year ago Thursday when the Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime at PPG Paints Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Just like this year, they had two days after Game 2 to rest, practice and travel before playing Game 3 at SAP Center.
The Penguins lost Game 3 in San Jose, 3-2 in overtime, but the experience of how they handled their situation, being up two games, and how they controlled their demeanor and sharpened their focus despite being two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup is what matters to them now.
They stayed away from the rink Thursday and will go through a video session and on-ice practice before flying to Nashville on Friday to get set up in Music City to play Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).
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"Our players have a certain level of perspective because of the experience that they've been through, so they understand we accomplished what we wanted to by starting at home, but that Game 3 is a new game, it's a new challenge, and we have to just focus on the task at hand," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said during a media conference call. "We're not going to dwell on the games that we just played. We're going to try to learn from those experiences and then we're going to move by it and get ready for Game 3.
"I think that's what the biggest takeaway is of these players going through these types of experiences in the past is; they know what to expect and they know not to overreact or underreact to any sort of situation that presents itself through the course of this series."
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They also know how to reset their mindset to the task at hand. The Penguins have excelled in doing that after a win or a loss under Sullivan since last season.
This is the fourth time they've taken a 2-0 lead in a Stanley Cup Playoff series playing for Sullivan. In two of the previous three times, they lost Game 3 but came back to win Game 4 and, eventually, the series in either five, six or seven games.
They've split the first two games of a series four times and won Game 3 on three occasions. They've never trailed a series through four games, a big reason why they are 7-0 in playoff series under Sullivan.
"I just think it's so critically important to have the right mindset going into each and every game we play," Sullivan said. "I've always been a big believer and our coaching staff is a big believer in staying in the moment and controlling what we can. We try to learn from each experience, but we're certainly not going to dwell on it because those experiences are over and done with. It's futile to look beyond the one experience right in front of you."
And the one right in front of the Penguins now is daunting.
"We know it's going to be more of a challenge in Nashville," goaltender Matt Murray said. "They have a good home record and they come out really hard in that building."
Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Murray flashes the leather on Josi
The Predators are 7-1 at home this postseason, including 3-0 in Game 3. They have outscored the opposition 25-13, including 8-4 in Game 3. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has a .947 save percentage and 1.54 goals-against average, including a .949 save percentage and 1.22 GAA in Game 3.
"We know we have a big challenge ahead of us," Sullivan said. "It's an exciting place to play. I think we've got to embrace the energy that's going to be in the city and in the building and we've just got to focus on those things that we can control, and that's going to be our competitive level, our attitude, our execution. All of those things that are within our control, that's where our focus is going to be. I think the experience that these guys have gone through they can certainly draw on as far as understanding the emotional ups and downs through the course of a series."