NASHVILLE — They could’ve been angry.
They certainly had the right.
Instead, the Nashville Predators chose grace and optimism after getting robbed of a goal and losing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s tough, but that’s sports,” said Preds captain Mike Fisher. “There’s human error in every sport. That’s the way it goes sometimes. We can’t control that, unfortunately. That happens and I’m sure the ref feels bad about it. But what do you do? It wasn’t on purpose.”
The referee was Kevin Pollock, and the error was a big one. Early in the second period, Colton Sissons appeared to make it 1-0 for Nashville. But Pollock had lost sight of the puck and blown the play dead. The goal was waved off as a result.
If the goal had counted, the Preds might have forced Game 7. But it didn’t, and now their season is over. The Penguins beat them, 2-0, Sunday at Bridgestone Arena. The winning goal was a fluky one that bounced off Pekka Rinne‘s back. The other was an empty-netter.
Tough to take.
“I was treating this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Rinne, who turns 35 in November. “You never know when you’re gonna get another opportunity. The only thing I was thinking about was that Cup. Dreaming about that. Playing for that.”
P.K. Subban echoed that sentiment.
“When you dream about lifting the Stanley Cup as a young kid, and the dreams happen probably a million times for most of us, being that close, being two games away from lifting the Stanley Cup, it sucks,” Subban said.
But then came the optimism, and for good reason. Save for Fisher and Rinne, the Preds’ key players are all under 30, and a lot of them are under 25.
“We have such a young team,” Subban said. “I think we gained a ton of experience from this run.”
He mentioned Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau, two young centers who were forced to step up when Ryan Johansen went down. Sissons could’ve been the hero in Game 6. But first came the blown call. Then a missed breakaway. Finally, he hit the post.
It’s going to sting for a while. And in a league with so much parity, it won’t be easy for the Predators to get so close again.
That being said, there’s no glaring reason they can’t. And if they can, they’ll bring this year’s experience with them.
“There are so many good things that we learned as a group,” said Fisher. “How to play. How to come together as a team and believe in each other. I think there’s only positives that can come out of this. Obviously, losing is never easy, but I think we learned a lot of lessons that guys will carry forward, for sure.”