It’s the end of May and that means it’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh Penguins played host to the Nashville Predators on Monday night for the opening tilt between these two teams in the best-of-seven series.
Going into the evening’s game it was possible that Jake Guentzel might have been the healthy scratch. No doubt, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is patting himself on the back for deciding to put the center in for the game. Guentzel’s go ahead goal with 3:17 remaining in the third period after the Predators had clawed themselves back into the game to tie it no doubt vindicated that decision.
Perhaps what was most frustrating for the Predators was that they were outshooting the Penguins throughout the game—denying the Penguins even a single shot on goal for 37 minutes in the middle of the game, after streaking out to a three goal lead. When the final buzzer sounded, the Predators had 26 shots against the 12 for the Penguins, but the score was 5-3 in favor of the Pittsburgh.
It may have been some nerves in the opening frame that allowed Pittsburgh to get three goals past Pekka Rinne, giving the Penguins a huge lead going into the middle twenty, but the Predators weren’t ready to say die. While they only managed to get one goal past Matt Murray, their ability to deny the Penguins any chances certainly helped boost their confidence, and they tied it 13:29 into the third.
Guentzel’s game winner was his tenth goal of the playoffs—having played 20 games so far in the postseason—and fourth game-winning goal in the run for the Cup. The rookie is leading the league this postseason currently fifth among rookies in league history among those who have scored ten or more goals in a single postseason.
Neither team would say they played well. The Penguins may have taken their foot of the gas a little too soon, underestimating the resolve of the Predators, after going up three markers. And though Nashville played strong in the middle, their breakdowns at the beginning coupled with their often chasing the puck, a result of the Penguins winning 58% of the faceoffs, didn’t do them any favors.
The teams will regroup and be back at it in Pittsburg on Wednesday night at the PPG Paints Arena.
Highlights are here: