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Predators must win Game 6 of Final or Stanley Cup hopes end

Have to defeat Penguins at Bridgestone Arena to force Game 7

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- The task in front of the Nashville Predators is pretty simple.

With a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), they will force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. With a loss, their season and their Cup dreams will end.

They say that is their focus much more than trying to prevent the Penguins from celebrating with the Stanley Cup in their building.

"Our motivation is the Cup. We want to win it," center Mike Fisher said. "That's something we're going to be hungry for. Obviously, you're going to see a good hockey game [Sunday]. There's no more motivation than that, and we want it."

 

[RELATED: Rinne ready for make the most of Game 6 opportunity]

 

This best-of-7 series has been an emotional ride for each team. After the Penguins won the first two games in Pittsburgh, the Predators responded by winning Games 3 and 4 in Nashville. The Penguins bounced back with a dominating performance in a 6-0 win in Game 5 in Pittsburgh on Thursday, putting the pressure on the Predators to hold serve and win again at home on Sunday.

Nashville has spent the past two days reviewing what went wrong in Game 5 -- there was a lot to review -- before beginning the process of rebuilding its confidence in preparation for Game 6. In watching the video of Game 5 on Friday, the Predators saw a lot of their mistakes again. But coach Peter Laviolette and his staff also have tried to stress some positive things they've done in the five games against the Penguins. 

The stakes may be a lot higher, but that process wasn't much different from what Nashville does after every game, win or lose.

Video: Sam Hunt on the Predators and hockey in Nashville

"A lot of times we'll go back and look at a few things that we can do better after every game on a practice day or an off day," center Colton Sissons said. "Then on game day, we try to have that positivity back in the room and look at stuff we've had success doing throughout the series, and just kind of get ourselves feeling good about our game heading into the night."

Laviolette spoke after Game 5 of wanting his players to "hang on" to their disappointment from that loss for a while rather than immediately put it behind them. Although the Predators have moved on and are looking ahead now, Laviolette believes it's important not to forget what happened in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

"Inside the room, I've said there's a confident group in there, but it's OK to remember that you just went somewhere and you didn't play well and you got handed a loss," he said. "And I think it's good that that helps, keeps you more on point at times, to make sure that the effort is better and that our execution is better and we do things at a higher pace."

Playing with more speed has been an emphasis for the Predators leading into Game 6 after they felt they were a step behind throughout Game 5. The Penguins jumped on them early, with center Sidney Crosby drawing a holding penalty on Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis on the opening shift that led to defenseman Justin Schultz's power-play goal 1:31 into the game.

Nashville was playing catch-up for the rest of the night and only fell further behind.

Video: MacLean on Predators mindset heading into Game 6

"I just thought they were the faster team in that game," defenseman Roman Josi said. "We've got to make sure we're the harder-working and the faster team out there."

In general, though, the Predators know what they need to do to defeat the Penguins, because they've done it twice in this series. That they've been resilient throughout this season, overcoming a slow start to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and reaching the Final for the first time in their history, fuels Laviolette's faith they can rebound Sunday.

"You can go back through the whole series, there's really one game that we don't like out of five games, and that's Game 5," Laviolette said. "Even more to the point, our guys have always, when we do not have the game that we want, usually our guys respond with an effort and a game that we're a lot more proud of. I would expect our guys to come out and give it a good, strong performance [Sunday]."

"We're playing for the Stanley Cup now and you just never know when you're going to get another opportunity like we have in front of us," Sissons said. "So we want to take advantage of that and just put our best foot forward and win a hockey game at home here."

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