The Nashville Predators don’t want to take any credit away from the Anaheim Ducks. The sentiment within the Preds locker room on Tuesday night after their 3-0 loss in Game Three - and again on Wednesday afternoon at the conclusion of practice - was that while the Ducks certainly played a solid hockey game to cut Nashville’s series lead to 2-1, there was also more to give from the home side.
The Preds will get that opportunity in Game Four on Thursday to take back a two-game series lead and head back to Anaheim on Saturday with a chance to close things out. But in order to do so, Ryan Ellis and company know they need to get back to what made them successful in the first two games of the clash.
“We know we’re up in the series here, but it still puts a bad taste in our mouth going forward,” Ellis said. “We were unhappy with the way we played, and especially in front of our home crowd after two great games in Anaheim, so we’re just looking at coming out with a much better effort. We know this could be a long series, so for us to be successful, we have to get back to our identity.”
Part of that includes being accountable, which centerman Ryan Johansen made sure of following Game Three. Johansen specifically said during postgame comments that he needed to be better and would let the frustration of the loss burn for about 20 minutes before turning his attention to the future. On Wednesday, the 23-year-old reaffirmed his comments.
“We had a good practice this morning, and you just want to let that go now,” Johansen said. “We did some video this morning, we touched on a few things we need to be better at. [We went out] there and put a smile on our face, had some fun at practice and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”
Head Coach Peter Laviolette believes one of the reasons his club so adept at bouncing back after a tough game is because of players like Johansen taking responsibility and identifying what needs to be corrected.
“I think the first step in fixing things is the realization that we can be better and to be more accountable to the way we play the game,” Laviolette said. “It’s great for a young player like [Johansen] to step up and say that… Our team has proven that when we don’t come out and play the game we want to, we usually take a step back in the right direction, so we’re moving forward from there and that’s the right mindset to have.
“That’s the reason why we do turn things around after we play poorly is because we’ve got the right people in the room that recognize things and realize things and then make sure that we do the right things moving forward in practice the next day or in the upcoming game. We feel confident about that.”
The Preds are also hoping to right the wrong in front of the home crowd on Thursday night. Not only does the club have the chance to take a 3-1 lead, but they’d prefer to give their fans something to cheer about before heading back to California.
“We have an opportunity to go into Anaheim and be able to finish off the series if we can get the results we want tomorrow,” Johansen said. “It’s disappointing how we played here last night in front of our fans and we want to make sure that we’re getting the results for them. We’re going to be ready to play tomorrow.”
Ultimately, goaltender Pekka Rinne may have put it best after Wednesday’s practice.
“It’s a great day; best time of the year,” Rinne said. “It’s so exciting to be in this position, to be in the playoffs. Game Four tomorrow, nothing is better. Another opportunity for us, we’re sitting in a good spot, and for sure, it’s a beautiful day.”
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