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Predators remain positive despite loss to Blues in Game 5

Undefeated at home in playoffs, Nashville confident of rebounding in Game 6

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

ST. LOUIS -- The Nashville Predators admitted they did not play their best game Friday, a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round at Scottrade Center.

But after blowing a chance to eliminate the Blues and advance to a conference final for the first time, the Predators remained positive about their position.

They lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and have yet to lose a home game this postseason (4-0). Game 6 is in Nashville on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Blues series coverage]

 

"At the end of the day we are going into our building, it's our barn, and we are going to be ready to play the way we know how," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It's going to take our best game and we will be at our best."

Said goalie Pekka Rinne, "We've got to be real here, we've got to be better."

The Blues took the lead on a goal by Dmitrij Jaskin at 5:43 of the second period. Jaskin, a last-minute substitution for the injured Alexander Steen, beat Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis to a rebound and shoveled it past Rinne. 

The goal started with a faceoff win by the Blues, something that has been in short supply in the first four games, followed by a dangerous shot from the point, which has been the Nashville recipe for scoring goals against the Blues.

"They were overall just a better team tonight," said Ellis, who had a seven-game point streak, tied for the Predators record, snapped.

The Jaskin goal was the first time the Blues scored first against the Predators and one of the rare times St. Louis has led.

Playing from behind changed Nashville's game in subtle ways.

"They scored first so we are chasing the game at that point and chasing it again to start the third," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. 

Nashville had to be the aggressor. No longer could they let St. Louis come at them and counter. The Blues were able to dictate the way the game would be played and it knocked the Predators off-kilter.

"We have to play faster, my line specifically," said Ryan Johansen, the first-line center between Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. "We have to find ways to make plays more, use our speed and our size."

Nashville's first line had 15 points in a four-game sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. They have three points in five games against the Blues.

Nashville's only goal Friday came on a 5-on-3 power play, a one-timer by James Neal on a beautiful pass from Subban at 13:50 of the second period. But the Predators had 22 shots, their lowest total against the Blues.

Video: NSH@STL, Gm5: Neal finishes Subban's feed for PPG

The Predators had repeated defensive-zone breakdowns. Jaden Schwartz scored the winning goal 25 seconds into the third period when he beat Ellis and defenseman Roman Josi to the rebound of a shot from Colton Parayko.

As the Predators chased the tying goal, they made uncharacteristic mistakes, errors caused by an increase in pressure.

Subban, in a 6-on-5 situation with Rinne pulled, banked a puck into the stands instead of into the corner. On another play, he allowed the puck to bounce over his stick and out of the zone. And Neal turned the puck over at the attacking blue line. All three happened in the final 44 seconds.

Others came earlier. 

Mattias Ekholm, perhaps Nashville's most responsible defenseman, got caught pinching into the offensive zone late in the third period and St. Louis was able to spring a 3-on-1 break. Only a great save by Rinne on forward Ryan Reaves prevented a the Blues from taking a two-goal lead.

"I didn't think it was good enough tonight," Josi said. "They are a good team. We have to look forward, forget about this one and look to Sunday. We knew it was going to be a hard game, but I thought we could have done a better job attacking."

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