NASHVILLE -- There was dejection on the players' faces in the Nashville Predators locker room after losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Two wins from hockey's ultimate prize, the 2-0 loss in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday was just their second at home in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs (9-2).
There also was a sense of pride in what they had been able to accomplish and what the future might hold.
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"I think right now, obviously, everybody is really disappointed," defenseman Roman Josi said. "I'm definitely proud of this team and the way we worked all year. Proud to be part of it."
The Predators believe they can use the loss in the Cup Final as a learning experience to guide them to a championship in coming seasons.
"I think there's so many good things that we learned as a group about how to play, how to come together as a team, believing in each other," captain Mike Fisher said. "I think there's only positives that can come out of this. There's obviously disappointment and losing is never easy, but I think we learned a lot just as a group and a lot of lessons that guys will carry forward, for sure."
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Fisher on Preds' Stanley Cup Final run
Several Predators made their NHL playoff debut during the run to the Cup Final. Much of the nucleus of the forward group is young; Filip Forsberg is 22, Viktor Arvidsson is 24, Ryan Johansen turns 25 on July 31, and Kevin Fiala will be 21 on July 22.
That doesn't make the loss to the Penguins any easier to take right now, but it does give them hope that their best days are ahead of them.
"Obviously, it's going to take awhile to let this one sink in, but at the same time, the new season is obviously not too far away now," Forsberg said. "We obviously have got something really exciting going on, so you've got to try to stay positive."
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Laviolette on team's effort in defeat
The Predators had high expectations heading into the season but experienced an up-and-down regular season. They were able to play their best hockey at the right time of the year and advanced to the Cup Final for the first time.
It was a learning experience for the Predators, and it's one they hope pays dividends for their young team in the future.
"Just how bright our future is," said defenseman P.K. Subban, who was in his first season in Nashville after being traded from the Montreal Canadiens for Shea Weber on June 29. "I think for our hockey club, putting this team together at the start of the season, there was a lot of talk about our team in the long term with such young players.
"But we've proven we're a team that can compete now and can win now. I think that we've got so many guys that are going to take experience from this run and use that to propel them over the offseason and come into the regular season and do what we need to do."
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm6: Subban on Preds' Stanley Cup Final run
The Predators will have a short offseason to regroup and try to begin a run that leads them to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. They plan to use the feeling of defeat to fuel them toward their ultimate goal.
"When you dream about lifting the Stanley Cup as a young kid, and the dreams happen probably a million times for most of us, being that close, being two games away, 120 minutes away from lifting the Stanley Cup, it [stinks]," Subban said. "… I think that for our hockey club right now, the bright spot is that we've got a young team. There's some guys that will never feel this feeling again, and let's hope that the next feeling that we have is raising the Cup over our heads and being Stanley Cup champions."