Sure, it’s not the ideal spot to be in. But the Nashville Predators have been in this spot before, and won.
After Saturday’s lackadaisical 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, the Preds find themselves facing an elimination game on the road for the second consecutive postseason.
“This group’s got to go and make their own way,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said. “They do have experience, not just from last year, but from previous years. Like I said, we’ve played a lot of playoff games, we’ve been put in these situations and positions before. They’ve answered the bell; they’ll answer the bell in Game 6, and we’ll bring it back here.”
The parallels from last year are eerily similar; Nashville trailing in the series 3-2, coming off a poor performance at home (6-2 loss to Winnipeg), needing a road win in a tough arena to stave off elimination and bring the series back home for a decisive Game 7.
In that game against Winnipeg, Nashville put forth perhaps its best effort of that series, shutting out the Jets 4-0 and wearing down Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck. This time around, the Preds will have to do it again against another Vezina finalist in Ben Bishop.
“We’re in the position we were last year in the second round,” defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “We’ve got to go into another building and win a Game 6. We know we can do it and that’s all our focus is right now.
“I think not only that we got the win in Winnipeg, but that game we played unbelievable. Everybody was really solid and I think that’s going to help us.”
In last year’s Game 6, it was the Preds top line that accepted the challenge (Arvidsson – 2 goals, 1 assist; Forsberg – 2 goals, 1 assist; Johansen – 2 assists) and brought the series back home for Game 7. This time, they may have to do it again.
“This group’s got to go and do it,” Laviolette said. “I don’t think that we should be relying or hanging our hat. The experience I do believe is good for a team. We now have that experience, but we’ve got to go there and make sure we do the job as well.”
“We’re here and we need to win a game,” Ekholm added. “It’s that simple, we need to win one game in Dallas. We’ve won a game there in this series and we can do it again. The focus is just keep going, we’re not out of it at all.”
However, the key to success may be more than just the Preds top line showing up, but also slowing down Dallas’ top line, which has combined for seven goals and 16 points (Benn – 1 goal, 5 assists; Radulov – 4 goals, 1 assist; Seguin – 2 goals, 3 assists) through six games. Additionally, that trio has scored in some fashion in every game of the series.
“I don’t care how you get fired up for these games, if it’s positive or angry,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “I don’t care how you want to prepare. We’ve just got to be better, myself included. It’s a huge game on Monday. Obviously, our backs are against the wall and it’s not the situation we wanted. You’ve got to give some credit to Dallas – they’re playing well. I feel like they’ve taken advantage of our mistakes and it is tough right now.”
“One thing for sure is we know how to win,” defenseman P.K. Subban added. “We know how to win in the playoffs, but we’ve got to do it. There’s been enough talk and we just have to go out and execute. We’ve got to go out and win a game and win it on the road. That’s playoffs, and we have no one to look at but ourselves. We’ve got to do the things to bring it back here.”
The Predators certainly have their work cut out for them; of the nine times Nashville previously reached Game 5 of playoff series tied 2-2, the team that won Game 5 also won the series eight of the nine times.