Predators look to 'bottle up' enthusiasm and Penguins’ scorers

NASHVILLE – The Nashville Predators are a confident bunch.

Their two wins in the raucous, party atmosphere of Bridgestone Arena evened up the Stanley Cup Final with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were emphatic wins, limiting the Penguins to one goal in each game and winning puck possession battles all over the ice.

But that was at home, where the Predators are now 9-1 in the playoffs and outscoring opponents 35-15. Now, it’s back to Pittsburgh for Game 5, and goalie Pekka Rinne hopes you can take it with you.

“I feel like by now the confidence level at home is really high. The way we play at home in front of our fans. So you try to bottle that feeling and bring it to Pittsburgh. Play the same way. Go there, do the same thing,” he said.

When it comes to confidence, though, the Predators haven’t lacked it all series.

“Our guys were pretty confident after Game 2. I know it’s a nasty hole to be in. But we really liked the way we played in Game 1. We thought we played a real competitive game in Game 2. Could have had results in both those games,” said coach Peter Laviolette.

The mantra for Nashville after going down 0-2 to the Penguins was that they had outplayed them, save for a couple of stretches, where Pittsburgh scored their goals in bunches.

“It was a three-minute span in one game and then a five-minute span in the other game that we wanted back. Otherwise, I thought we played well,” said defenseman Mattias Ekholm. “But we can’t just relax for a second, for a shift, for a minute. And that’s what helped us in the last game here.”

Well, it helped them to a point. The Penguins left Game 4 surprisingly confident about what they were able to accomplish, echoing the sentiments the Predators had after Game 2: They liked the effort, they liked their chances, they hated the result.

“It’s the most consistent [effort] as far as generating chances” said captain Sidney Crosby of the Penguins. “We found a different level there tonight, and didn’t get the result we wanted.”

Laviolette cautioned his players that the odd-man rushes they were surrendering in Game 4 could be trouble if the trend continues in Game 5.

“There were some opportunities where they got numbers behind us. I didn’t see that so much in Games 1 and 2,” he said. “I think the only game really where they did get behind us was last night. When they got behind us, they were able to do some damage off of that. We need to play a little bit tighter than we did last night in those situations.”

Game 5 is Thursday night. With a win, Nashville sets up a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice in what would be the biggest hockey party the city’s ever seen.

“To be honest, I don’t really make a big deal out of where and when things are happening, as long as they’re happening,” said Ekholm.

“It’s going to be a big challenge on the road, but I have a lot of confidence in this group and the way we played in the first two games in Pittsburgh. I think everyone should come in with a lot of confidence.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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