Last night the Nashville Predators got themselves back into the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The series is now 2-1 in favor of Pittsburgh. After giving up the first goal, they won every race and won every battle and forced the Penguins to retaliate with violence at the end of the game. The Penguins really had nothing left at that point.
The game didn’t start the way the Predators would have liked. At 2:46 of the first period Pekka Rinne fought a shot and left a rebound in his crease. Then the defense allowed Jake Guentzel to skate right behind them, untouched to poke home the 1st goal of the game. A bit of worry spread through the crowd, everyone was thinking, “here we go again”. However, the crowd did not lose faith and the early goal did not have the desired effect on the crowd the Penguins had hoped it would. Instead, the crowd rose to their feet and gave the team a standing ovation before the next puck drop. From this point forward, the Predators were the better team.
Starting at the 5 minute mark of the 2nd period the Predators would give the Penguins a little taste of their own medicine. First Roman Josi buried a shot on the powerplay at the 5:51 mark. Then, before they could even announce the first goal Frederick Gaudreau would bury a wrister just 42 seconds later to give the Predators the lead for good. Then with 23 seconds left in the period, James Neal would bat a puck out of the air off of Matt Murray and into the net for a 3-1 lead after 2.
Point of note. Rinne started this game a little shaky. He still seemed to be fighting the puck. Then with just under 13 minutes to go in the period, he did this:
From this point forward, he looked like, well…..Rinne. His glove came to life, he was comfortable in seeing and playing the puck out of harms way. Those two saves, seemed to remind him of who he was and how he can play.
In the 3rd period, the Predators finished them off. At 5:51 of the period Craig Smith buried a breakaway. Then with just 6:50 to go in the game Mattias Ekholm ripped one past Murray on the powerplay to give the Preds a 5-1 lead. Then the game descended into anarchy a little bit. In the last 5 minutes the refs had to reassert control. They would call 3 minors and 5 misconduct penalties between the two teams.
In the end, this was just what the Predators needed. They needed to win one of these games where they outplayed the Penguins before it got into their heads that maybe they couldn’t. Once again their depth proved to be key, as 5 different Predators would score goals. The 3rd period goals by Smith and Ekholm raised the number of skaters with goals in this playoff to 19 for Nashville. Another big key was making Evgeni Malkin (0 shots), Sydney Crosby (0 shots) and Phil Kessel (3 shots) virtually invisible.
Now, let’s all enjoy this and then get ready to get back at it again tomorrow. Game 4 is in Nashville on Monday, June 5th at 7pm CT on NBC.
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