The Stanley Cup will be in the building tonight, and the Nashville Predators are intent on keeping it in the box.
Game Six between the Preds and Pittsburgh Penguins takes place this evening at Bridgestone Arena, and with the Penguins holding a 3-2 series lead, the Predators are facing elimination for the first time in the 2017 postseason.
The home team has won every game so far in this series, including a 6-0 Pittsburgh victory in Game Five. The Predators know they have no choice but to win tonight, a challenge they're embracing.
"I know our guys don't sit in [the locker room] and wonder how we're going to do this," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think we're an extremely confident group, and we've had a lot of success, especially down the stretch in the regular season through the playoffs. We've had success. We've found a certain way to play the game with a certain identity, and when we do that, usually the wins follow.
"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 Five. And 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."
Filip Forsberg remains the leading scorer for Nashville with nine goals and 16 points in the playoffs, followed by Roman Josi with 14, then Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson with 13 points each. Josi, Colton Sissons and James Neal have six goals each, while Frederick Gaudreau has three goals in the Cup Final thus far. Pekka Rinne has started every game for the Preds in these playoffs and is 9-1 at home in the 2017 postseason.
Evgeni Malkin's 28 points lead the Penguins, followed by Sidney Crosby with 27 and Phil Kessel with 23. Jake Guentzel leads the team with 13 goals, followed by Malkin with 10, then Crosby and Kessel with eight each. Matt Murray bounced back from consecutive losses with a 24-save shutout in Game Five to lower his goals-against average to 1.87.
Video: Preds must hold serve at home to force Game 7
As the Predators try to force Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, here are three things to watch for:
Time to Move On:
The Predators certainly weren't about to brush Game Five off as if it never happened. Friday brought about a video session where Laviolette and his staff dissected points of the 6-0 defeat, a necessary session under the circumstances.
But once that was done, it really was time to move on. And according to Rinne, a Stanley Cup Final in the middle of June makes it easier to do so.
"In the playoffs, I think your mindset is different than in the regular season," Rinne said. "A lot of times in the regular season, if things are not going your way one night, you take that with you and you worry about it. But in playoffs, right now our backs are against the wall and this is our opportunity. I think you try to do anything in your power and prepare the best you can for this one."
Video: Josi, Arvidsson and Irwin preview final home game
Through 21 games in the 2017 postseason, the Predators haven't faced an elimination game - until now. Down 3-2 to Pittsburgh, the Predators have no choice but to win tonight. When Nashville has had a chance to eliminate their opponent in these playoffs, they haven't wasted a second on home ice. That same urgency will be needed tonight in front of the home crowd.
"It's playoffs - you're going to go up against elimination and tight games," Preds forward James Neal said. "For us, we have confidence in our home rink. We have confidence in the way we've played here… It's an elimination game, but at the same time you have to enjoy it. This is what we've worked for all year. You [need] a clear mindset going in and be ready to go. I think our team's done that all year and we'll have a good game."
Video: Laviolette says Preds know what's at stake in Game 6
The Next Chapter:
Momentum? Not in the playoffs.
That's according to players and coaches on both sides of the puck in this series. The Predators don't expect the Penguins to pick up right where they left off in Game Five, and on the subject, Nashville expects much better of themselves as well.
We'll see soon enough how this chapter is written.
"You know, the thing about the playoffs, if we win Games Three and Four, then for sure we're going to win Game Five, right? And it just doesn't work that way in the playoffs," Laviolette said. "Every game is its own chapter, its own slice of the pie, and you have to go out and fight for that slice every day and be ready to write that chapter. Last chapter doesn't have anything to do with it.
"I think our guys will be ready to do that. They get a couple days off here, what happened in Game Five is gone. We know what we need to do in Game Six. We know how we're capable of playing, especially in our building here, and look to get ourselves a big win."
When You Go:
Combined with the CMA Festival happenings downtown, Sunday will be one big party leading up to Game Six. For more information on pregame festivities and downtown watch parties, visit the Preds Playoff Hub.
Doors to Bridgestone Arena open at 4 p.m. for the Lower Bowl, followed by a full open at 5 p.m. CT. All fans attending the game will receive Gold rally towels and light-up bracelets.
Take It In:
Game Six presented by Vanderbilt between the Preds and Pens can be seen on NBC in the United States, CBC in Canada and can be heard on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network. Fox Sports Tennessee also provides live pre- and postgame coverage.