The Nashville Predators have not faced this situation before in these playoffs.
Through three rounds, the Predators have avoided facing elimination, sweeping the Blackhawks and then dispensing of the Blues and Ducks each in six games.
But after Thursday’s blowout loss in Pittsburgh, they need a win on Sunday in Nashville to force a seventh game in the Stanley Cup Final. The away team has gone 0-5 in this series, with visiting goalies struggling — and, in Pekka Rinne‘s case last night, getting pulled.
The Predators are 5-1 in their next game immediately following a defeat in these playoffs, and they have already battled back from a 2-0 deficit in this series. Only difference is now, there is no room for another loss.
“Just with regard to our team not playing well, we’ve had a real honest group in here, and when the game that we played isn’t the game that we’re looking for, there’s usually a good response,” said coach Peter Laviolette on Friday.
“I don’t think that there’s any searching going on in there on how we’re going to do this or what needs to take place. We need to play a better game. We’ve proven that we can and we have in the past, and there’s a lot of confidence that we will in a couple days.”
The Predators had controlled play for large stretches in this series — until Thursday, when the Penguins, perhaps refreshed from an extra day of rest following Game 4, struck early and often on the scoreboard, received balanced scoring and arguably Sidney Crosby‘s best game of this postseason.
Both teams get an extra day off again before Game 6.
One concern for the Predators will be the status of defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Nashville’s blue line, particularly the top four of Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm, has been tremendous in these playoffs, however Ellis missed a large portion of last night’s game with an undisclosed injury.
There was no update from Laviolette on Thursday, and again, no update on Friday.
But, he was more than willing to turn the page on what occurred with his team the previous night.
“We don’t like the way we played last night. We’re all ready to own that. We’re ready to admit that, and we’re ready to move forward from it,” said Nashville’s coach.
“But, again, I think that there’s an awful lot of positives that we’ve taken from this series, as well. Last night we didn’t have it going on. Pittsburgh did. And we’ll look to flip that.”