PITTSBURGH – There’s no need for the Nashville Predators to be concerned about losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final despite thoroughly dominating the Pittsburgh Penguins in all areas but the scoreboard.
The Predators have yet to drop back-to-back games these playoffs, and after their four previous defeats they’ve bounced back with strong performances and most importantly, victories.
In those four bounce-back wins, Nashville limited their opponents to an average of 25 shots and Pekka Rinne only allowed one goal in each of those games, while their penalty kill staved off seven of eight power play chances.
“The last couple years has been kind of setting us up for this moment,” said defenseman Ryan Ellis. “The ups and downs of previous series, the way we did in the first round, then on to the second, each time kind of presented a different challenge. So we had a lot of guys with a lot of games under their belt in the playoffs – obviously not Stanley Cup Final games. But yesterday was a good test for us. Now we face a little adversity. We see what kind of group and character we have to bounce back.”
The common thread among the Predators after their 5-3 loss in Game 1 was that they were very happy with the game they played, despite the result. There are still at most six games left in this series, and while no team wants to fall behind 2-0, fighting through and overcoming hurdles has been a theme this season for Nashville. Sure, there wasn’t a ton of playoff experience on the roster before this spring, but the culture inside that dressing room was one that’s strengthened as the year went on.
“Our team has been tested many times this season. Whether we’ve had guys out of the lineup or we’ve gone through rough patches, we’ve always responded the right way,” said defenseman P.K. Subban. “You talk about culture and that starts with management and that trickling down to what we have as a leadership group. Our leadership group is not just guys with C’s and A’s on their jersey, they do an amazing job, but it’s our group and the attitude in the dressing room.”
That attitude was on display after that disastrous first period Monday night. It wasn’t stunned silence and there were no fingers being pointed. Instead, there was encouragement and belief spreading throughout that room.
“Sometimes when you struggle you have to work through things and by overcoming struggles you can gain confidence from that,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “It wasn’t a perfect ride for us in the regular season and I think because of that we’ve learned to trust each other inside the room and count on each other. With that, you can build confidence of overcoming tougher times. This is no different.”
The good feelings the Predators currently have will last until the puck drops for Game 2, knowing they can play even better. But on the other side will be a Penguins team that has now gotten a taste of what their opponents can do, and still found a way to win despite a poor showing, which included 37 minutes without a shot on Rinne.
The series reads 1-0 in Pittsburgh’s favor. That’s all that matter to the Predators.
“We hate the result. We are 100 percent in the result-oriented business,” said Laviolette. “I would rather be in their shoes. I’d rather have that Game 1 win because you need four out of seven, so now it’s down to six to try and grab the four.”
“It’s one of those situations where if it was good, it wasn’t good enough.”
– – – – – – –
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY: