Written by Sean Hartnet at CBS New York.com
Throughout the playoffs, the 16th-seeded Nashville Predators have gained admirers due to their next-man-up mentality and suffocating brand of defense.
Although the Predators lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, they showed how effective their possession-positive play can be against the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Predators quickly fell behind by three goals after P.K. Subban’s apparent series-opening goal was wiped off the board due to a contentious offsides review. Nashville carried the play for the opening 11 minutes, but mentally unraveled after the goal was taken off the board.
The visitors lost focus and fell into the trap of taking several ill-advised penalties, including James Neal being whistled for a mindless cross-checking penalty that set up a Penguins 5-on-3 advantage. In addition, there was times when Neal needlessly had his stick in the air and not on the ice, a repeated failure to provide a target for his defensemen to advance the puck. It was an awful night for No. 18 in white. He’s got to screw his head on straight for Game 2 on Wednesday.
Despite the nightmarish first period, the Predators charged back, gaining the lion’s share of the momentum in the second as they played keep away with the puck. Those who thought the own goal off Mattias Ekholm’s knee late in the first was going to finish Nashville obviously don’t much about this group’s ability to respond when the chips are down.
Nashville did an outstanding job of minimizing Pittsburgh’s home ice advantage for much of the night. Led by criminally underrated defenseman Roman Josi, the Predators limited the high-octane Penguins to just 12 total shots on goal in Game 1. There was plenty of excellent backchecking and denying of offensive zone entries by head coach Peter Laviolette’s players. PPG Paints Arena drifted into a tense and muted atmosphere as the game progressed.
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