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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins try to put away Predators in Game 6 of Final

Pittsburgh must buck trend of failing at first chance to eliminate playoff opponents

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NASHVILLE -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will have to buck a negative trend to win the Stanley Cup on Sunday.

The Penguins are 0-4 in their first chance to knock out an opponent in the last four playoff series they've played going back to the Final last year.

Game 6 of the 2017 Final at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports) is their first chance to knock out the Nashville Predators. Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 3-2.

 

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"We have to go out and we've got to earn that next victory, and we know how difficult that's going to be," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We have to be prepared to bring our very best game to the table."

The Penguins have said a variation of that every time they have had a chance to knock out an opponent, especially on the first try. It hasn't worked well for them.

They had a 3-1 lead against the San Jose Sharks through four games in the Final last year, but goalie Martin Jones made 44 saves and the Sharks won 4-2 in Game 5. The Penguins won the Cup with a 3-1 win in Game 6 at San Jose.

They had a 3-0 lead against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round this year, but fell behind 3-0 less than 25 minutes into Game 4 and lost 5-4. Pittsburgh won the series with a 5-2 victory in Game 5.

The Penguins had a 3-1 lead after four games against the Washington Capitals in the second round, but were outplayed in Games 5 and 6 and lost. However, they played one of their best games of the playoffs and won 2-0 in Game 7.

Video: What the Pens need to do in Game 6 to hoist the Cup

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Penguins defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-0 in Game 5 to take 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Penguins went to Ottawa for Game 6 and peppered goalie Craig Anderson with 46 shots, but he made 45 saves, including 22 in the second period, and the Senators won 2-1 to force Game 7. Chris Kunitz's double-overtime goal gave the Penguins a 3-2 win and a date with Nashville in the Cup Final.

This time, they got the chance to eliminate Nashville with a 6-0 win at home in Game 5 on Thursday.

"You can draw on different experiences," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "I think everybody does that when you get to big moments like this. It's just about going out there and playing your best when it means the most. We trust we can do that."

To Crosby, that means the Penguins need to have an attack mentality. It means they need to start the game with an aggressive approach and stay on their toes while putting the Predators on their heels. Get pucks and bodies going toward goalie Pekka Rinne. Create chaos.

They didn't do nearly enough of that early in Game 4 against the Blue Jackets or in Games 5 and 6 against Washington. They were good in Game 6 against Ottawa, but Anderson was better.

Video: Hersch and Johnson on the Pens' keys to win the Cup

"Play fast, don't hold onto the puck too long, make space plays early in the game and make sure we get in those foot races," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "That's really important. You see last game when we started putting pucks behind them more consistently we got more zone time and obviously we scored more goals. Pucks behind them is going to be key for us."

The Penguins discovered that in Game 4 here. They lost 4-1, but they had several Grade A chances, many created by Crosby. It was the first time in the series they found cracks in Nashville's defense. They opened those cracks into holes in Game 5 to earn the chance they have now.

"We know we're going to get Nashville's best here," Hornqvist said. "This is going to be a [heck] of a game out. We have to play a really, really good game to win this one. We have to come prepared. We're all really looking forward to this moment. [Let's] go out there and get it started."

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