NASHVILLE Coming off the most successful playoff season in franchise history and having won their first two games on the road, the Nashville Predators set themselves up for something of a celebratory homecoming on Thursday.
Bridgestone Arena was sold out with 17,113 in attendance and gold T-shirts draped over every seat in anticipation.
When the puck hit the ice, the Preds coughed up a dud. They trailed 1-0 after 12 minutes, 2-0 after 14:28 and 3-0 after 18:45. They were down 4-0 midway through the game before they mounted a come back.
They cut the deficit to 4-2, but an empty-net goal by Phoenix finished them off at 5-2.
One factor that was hard to measure in the poor start was a video tribute played before the game in memory of former Pred Wade Belak, who died in August. The video showed Belak at his best, cutting up for the camera, performing work in the community and with his teammates all saying he was the funniest player on the team.
Most athletes psych themselves up bef...