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Three Thoughts for Game Three

Predators Want to Play More 5-on-5 Hockey as They Seek Seventh-Straight Home Win

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

Power Play Deciding Winner:

Special teams stayed dormant during the Predators' Round One series, but power plays and penalty kills have clearly made their impact in two games in Nashville's second postseason matchup.

In Game One, Nashville skated to the box a single time and fired two pucks home while on the man advantage in a 4-3 win. In Game Two, the Preds racked up 23 penalty minutes and didn't draw a single power-play opportunity. The Blues used five man-advantage chances - including a five-minute major - to effectively score twice (with their second goal coming moments after Filip Forsberg exited the box) and prevail 3-2.

Several Preds said Saturday they'd prefer to end the trend of power plays deciding games outright. After a better 5-on-5 performance in Game Two, Nashville feels they can win the series by staying out of the box. St. Louis had a Top 10 power play and penalty kill during the regular season.

"We need to do a better job of staying out of the box," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "We were pretty good at that in the first game, and they learned from their mistakes as far as going to the box. I think that's a good starting point for us going into the next game, that we need to take a page out of their book and do the same as far as staying out of the box - and trying to play 5-on-5 as much as possible."

"I took two penalties, Filip took a penalty and I think we got out of rhythm as a line," Ryan Johansen said. "But when we were in the flow of the game together, I thought we did a lot of good things. But in saying that, you have to find ways to produce, you have to find ways to get on the board. I know we'll be good tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it."

Video: Fisher, Ellis, Josi and Johansen preview Game Three

Face-off Jekyll and Hyde:

Sixty-two percent for and 38 percent against. Then 46 percent for and 54 percent against.

Admittedly, faceoffs can be a microcosm of the uncontrollable bounces within hockey, but teams still believe they need to be winning more than 50 percent to help ensure victory. A clean start with possession off a faceoff can be the difference in clearing a puck while shorthanded or generating a clean one-timed chance in the offensive zone. Nashville had that in Game One, but lost it in Game Two.

The next two games in the series being in Nashville should help Head Coach Peter Laviolette play the lines and matchups he wants by virtue of the last change, an advantage that may also help increase possession time by way of more face-off wins.   

"I don't know what changed, sometimes it's just matchups and where you're getting your face-off starts," Captain Mike Fisher said. "It's something we're always trying to improve and be good at. They have a couple guys that are really strong that we need to be good against."

"They have really good centermen, so they're really good at the face-off dot," Johansen explained. "Fish was really good again last night, but I need to try to find a way to get above 50 percent. I was a little below it last night... It's a very important part of the game and you have to find ways to win those battles."

Video: STL@NSH: Fisher tallies the go-ahead goal in close

The Six (One, Five):

While a Game Two loss left a sour taste in their mouth, the Predators did still manage to accomplish what every road team wants at a minimum: a split of the series' first two games.

Nashville now returns to Bridgestone Arena, a spot where they've won six consecutive postseason games. The Smashville faithful flexed their muscle in both contests during Round One. The Preds rallied from a two-goal deficit to win Game Three at home and later grinded out their First Round series with a 4-1 win over Chicago in Game Four.

Winning Game Three tomorrow would put Nashville back in the driver's seat in the series. The Preds have won three straight at home over the Blues, including both contests in Nashville during the 2016-17 regular-season series.

"I think we know what type of series this is going to be," Fisher said. "It's going to be a tough series. We're playing a great hockey team, and we just need to respond well here. We're at home now, which is a good thing, and we're looking forward to that game tomorrow."

Said Laviolette after the Preds Game Three win in Round One: "[The atmosphere] was a 10. I'm not sure there's another place like it."

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