To stay alive, Preds must reestablish forecheck


NASHVILLE — The Predators’ forecheck was one of the big reasons they had so much success in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

But for a number of reasons, the Preds weren’t able to pressure Pittsburgh’s defense in Game 5, and now the Preds are facing elimination.

To stay alive, they’ll have to reestablish that forecheck Sunday in Game 6.

“Just get back to putting pucks behind their D,” said Nashville center Colton Sissons. “We turned pucks over a little too much, little bit too much east-to-west, losing speed through the neutral zone. If we can get pucks behind their D, put ’em in good spots away from (Matt) Murray, we’ll be able to establish a forecheck.”

At times, playing defense in the NHL is a lot like playing quarterback in the NFL. When a puck is dumped in, a defensemen has to go back to get it, just like a quarterback dropping back to pass. The pressure is coming, and the right decision needs to be made in a hurry.

Otherwise, trouble.

“It’s tough, obviously,” said Preds d-man Matt Irwin. “As a defenseman going back for the puck, you want to have as much time as you can. You know you got guys barreling down on you that are going to finish checks. I think they did a good job of that against us in Game 5.”

For the Predators, much of reestablishing the forecheck will come down to playing smarter through the neutral zone, cutting down turnovers, and placing their dump-ins better.

But some of it will also come down to desperation, after the Penguins won most of the races in Game 5.

“If you’re not there first, if you’re not quick to get there and establish that forecheck, what happens is a breakout from the opposition,” said head coach Peter Laviolette.

That’s where Nashville’s crowd could play a role Sunday. In 10 home games this postseason, the Preds have only lost once at Bridgestone Arena. All that noise can make it hard on the opposition. All that energy can feed the home team’s desire.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” said Laviolette. “We know that our fans are behind us. It’s loud. There’s a lot of energy. I think we’ve played well on the ice as well. So it’s gone hand in hand — the play on the ice has brought out the best in our fans, and it seems to have escalated as the playoffs have moved on.

“That being said, we’ve got to make sure our game is intact and that we’re on point with what we’re doing on the ice.”

Related: Preds looking forward to next chapter of Stanley Cup Final

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.


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:


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.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at 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.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at 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.



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