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As Preds Fall Down, New Leader Steps Up

Posted: 1:51 PM, Jun 01, 2017
Updated: 2017-06-01 14:51:05-04

In the waning minutes of a 4-1 loss to the Penguins in game two of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday, there was P.K. Subban dropping the gloves and exchanging jabs with Evgeni Malkin, against the boards behind the Nashville net.

Perhaps it was frustration in the loss and the impending 2-0 series deficit against the defending champs. But Subban's decision to go after Malkin, a fellow All-Star, showed that the Predators aren't going to go away quietly.

In a series in which the Preds have largely played well, with the notable exception of goaltender Pekka Rinne, but suffered from a few untimely mistakes and a couple unfortunate bounces, this was a message sent, as much to Subban's own teammates as it was Malkin or the Penguins.

Playing in his first Stanley Cup Final in his first season with the Predators, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner is going to give it everything he's got to make sure his team doesn't go down without a fight.

Minutes after the game, Subban stood at his stall in a nearly empty locker room and told reporters this, "We're going back home, we're going to win the next game and we're gonna go from there."

It was far from the guarantee some people will make that statement out to be. But, again, it was a message that the Predators aren't out of this series, despite the 2-0 deficit, and that the road to getting back in it starts with the next game.

Subban will be leading the way.

Perhaps hockey's biggest celebrity, Subban has stepped back from the leadership spotlight for much of his first season in Nashville. After all, he was traded straight up for the Predators' longtime captain, Shea Weber, last summer. It was not his team to lead.

The Preds have a strong leadership group led by new captain Mike Fisher and guys like James Neal, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. This is a self-motivated group, but it's a group that's never been on this type of stage before.

Facing by far the most adversity of a playoff run that seems to have run out of magic the last few nights, someone needed to step up.

Subban did with his fists and his words.

It's not a stand he could've taken eight months when he was hobbled during training camp, or mid-season when he missed 16 games with a back injury. But now after a grueling playoff run, with the sport's ultimate prize within reach, albeit fading from sight, there was Subban taking five for fighting.

And then answering every tough question with a resolve that this team, his team, is not done yet.

The Predators trail the Penguins 2-0, halfway to elimination. But in the midst of their first real adversity of the postseason, a new, passionate leader emerged Wednesday night.

And that's encouraging, however this series winds up.