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Stanley Cup Final

Predators seek more energy, urgency against Penguins in Game 6

Nashville wants to play desperate hockey at home to extend Stanley Cup Final

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators want no part of seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins skating around Bridgestone Arena with the Stanley Cup.

That's why the Predators spent part of Friday preparing for Game 6 of the Cup Final watching their 6-0, Game 5 loss from the night before.

The harsh evidence on the video reinforced what they already knew: They were beaten thoroughly by a team that played with more urgency and energy from the drop of the puck. If that happens again Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), the Predators will see the Penguins celebrating with the Stanley Cup in their arena.

"You can't get distracted by that," Nashville forward Colin Wilson said. "Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and it's just winning that next game."

 

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Despite the lopsided loss in Game 5 that put them behind 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, the Predators have reason to be confident they can rebound and force Game 7 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Nashville lost the first two games of the series at PPG Paints Arena and responded by winning Games 3 and 4 at home by a combined score of 9-2. The Predators are 9-1 at Bridgestone Arena this postseason.

"It's the same approach, I think," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We need to win a hockey game. [We] came back [after] losing two [and] I said at that point that there's a lot of confidence in our group on how we play the game. We've liked a lot of what we've done in this series. We don't like the way we played [Thursday]. We're all ready to own that. We're ready to admit that, and we're ready to move forward from it."

Video: The guys discuss how the Predators have stepped up

This is the first time the Predators could lose a series this postseason, but they can look back on some positive experiences from last season. They trailed the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the Western Conference First Round but won the last two games, including 2-1 at Anaheim in Game 7. The Predators were in the same situation in the second round against the San Jose Sharks and won Game 6 4-3 in overtime at home before losing Game 7 5-0 on the road.

"Being in this situation is the only way to really learn from it and get that real experience," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. "Because you can talk about it as much as you [want], but you've got to experience it, you've got to live it, you've got to be in that position. We were [in that position] last year, and I think all of the guys know how to handle themselves in these situations now."

One of the things that bothered the Predators most about their Game 5 loss was that they weren't able to match the Penguins' desperation. That came after Laviolette spoke Thursday morning about desperation being more of a deciding factor than any momentum that can carry over from game to game.

Laviolette said he thought the Predators would be the more desperate team because they need to win a game on the road to win this series and the Penguins don't. But the Penguins followed the lead of captain Sidney Crosby and showed why they are the defending champions. Pittsburgh played with a determination Nashville could not match.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Rust shovels a backhander over Rinne

"We all felt ready to go, and I think they just came out with a little bit more urgency, a little bit more fire," Predators defenseman Yannick Weber said. "So they just kind of took our mindset that we usually have and did to us what we try to do to them. From the first shift on, it felt like they had a step on us. They wanted it more, and their best players were playing well."

The Penguins appeared to get some added energy from their fans. The Predators know they can do the same after playing in front of raucous crowds at Bridgestone Arena throughout the playoffs. In the end, however, it will come down to the players elevating their performance the way the Penguins did in Game 5. 

"We've had a real honest group in here, and when the game that we played isn't the game that we're looking for, there's usually a good response," Laviolette said. "I said it [Thursday], and even after meeting with the guys today, we've got a lot of confidence in our group to be better, to get better, and to play a good game. I don't think that there's any searching going on in there on how we're going to do this or what needs to take place. 

"We need to play a better game. We've proven that we can and we have in the past, and there's a lot of confidence that we will in a couple days."

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