Predators’ confidence not shaken after Game 5 blowout

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PITTSBURGH — When the Nashville Predators lost the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins they had every reason to remain confident in their game.

They were not only the better team at times and carried the play for extended stretches against the defending champs, but they had a great chance to win both games. In the end, they did not, but the process was still in place and they ended up getting the results over the next two to even the series.

None of that was not the case on Thursday night in their 6-0 Game 5 loss that turned into a blowout within the first 10 minutes.

As a result they are now facing elimination for the first time this postseason and have to win on Sunday night in Nashville to extend the series to a seventh game.

They do not seem phased by the situation and remain confident in their ability to defend home ice at Bridgestone Arena where they are 8-1 this postseason and have yet to lose a game in regulation.

“The real hockey starts now,” said Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.

“You’re in the Stanley Cup Final, this is what it’s all about. It’s about going back and forth and back and forth. At the end of the day we’ve already parked this game, we are focussing on Game 6 in our building. We know the energy is going to be there. We know we are going to play our best hockey and we’re going to come back with an even better performance.”

It would be difficult for them to follow up Thursday’s game with a worse a performance. For the Predators, it was probably their worst overall game in what has been an otherwise dominant postseason.

Coach Peter Laviolette was adamant that his team will be ready for Sunday.

“Our guys will be ready,” said Laviolette.  “I’m telling you, there is a lot of confidence in that room. We have a lot of confidence in our home building. We have a lot of confidence in the way we played this year and we have a lot of confidence in the way we’ve played in the playoffs. Think about it, you’ve played over 20 games and there are probably two games where we could have played better. This was one of them. Our guys will respond.”

In a sign of just how quickly things can get flipped upside down in a best-of-seven series the big question for the Predators now once again drifts back to starting goalie Pekka Rinne.

After a tough start to the series in Games 1 and 2, including a Game 2 performance that saw him be replaced by Juuse Saros, Rinne bounced back with two spectacular showings on home ice and seemed to have the series trending in Nashville’s favor.

Then on Thursday everything fell apart in the first period and it was once again Saros going back into the game.

Even with that performance and having to switch goalies twice in the first five games of the series Laviolette and the Predators remain firmly behind their starter. Especially given the way he played earlier this postseason when he was one of the biggest keys to their success.

“I know we have to be better in front of him,” said Laviolette. “If you go back and look at the goals and the way they scored, we gave up the power play early on. The next two we need better coverage. There are things we can do better in front of him. I don’t think they were bad goals. We’ll look to clean that up and be better the next game. Our guys have a tremendous amount of confidence in him we have to be better in front of him.”

Rinne was asked about his confidence level after the game.

“Good,” he said. “Feeling good. Obviously disappointed with the game. That was a huge game, we came here well prepared and we did not have it tonight. As a team we just have to feel confident playing at home.”

There is almost no question that Rinne will be back in net for Game 6, especially after Juuse Saros gave up three goals of his own after replacing him.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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