PITTSBURGH – As coach Peter Laviolette has said, the Nashville Predators were “the last one through the door” in the Western Conference, so they haven’t had the benefit of home ice in any of their series.
To win the Stanley Cup, they’ll need a win at the Pittsburgh Penguins in either Game 5 or a potential Game 7.
“We need one win in this building. We haven’t had home ice yet this year, and so we found a way to at least steal one in a building on the road every series. Again, we’re at that task,” said defenseman Ryan Ellis.
He’s encouraged that the Predators can pull it off.
“We might have even played better in this building than we did at home at times,” he said.
This might come as a surprise to many, given that the Predators lost two games in Pittsburgh, giving up nine goals, while winning two games in Nashville, giving up two goals. But Ellis said the “all-around game” for the Predators on the road might have been better than the home efforts.
“We can find that as a good place to start,” he said. “We may have competed more for 60 minutes at times. They got their chances, and they buried them.”
Some of that mindset could be a byproduct of the Predators’ Game 4 effort, in which they surrendered a series of odd-man rushes to the Penguins and relied on goalie Pekka Rinne to bail them out. It was a winning effort, but Laviolette inferred it might have been their leakiest defensive effort.
“They came full force at us in Game 4, and we gotta do a better job in front of Pekks. When we needed him, he was there,” said Ellis.
How can they remedy this?
“We’re trying to play an aggressive style. So every time it’s not all five guys playing the system, it’s a chance for them to get on the rush,” said defenseman Roman Josi. “They’re really quick, and their transition game is really quick. A lot of forwards that can fly.”
And so we come to the crux of Game 5 for the Predators: Can they play as well as they did at times in Games 1 and 2, but without the mental errors that opened a small wound the Penguins’ offense ripped open in two losses?
“We know we can play better in this building. We know we’re going to have to. This is a team that Games 1 and 2, there were a few minutes where we liked our game for some of it, then other parts of it, they took over. They capitalized,” said captain Mike Fisher, dissenting from his teammate’s opinion.
“We know who we’re facing, in their building. We got to be ready to be at our best. We know it’s an exciting challenge. I think you’ll see we’ll be ready for it.”
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