Going into the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators looked to have righted the ship in many ways, having scored first during the opening twenty and to be the ones winning in the faceoff circle. Their penalty kill was impressive throughout the entire game, denying the Pittsburgh Penguins on all seven of the Penguins power plays. As the second intermission began the teams were tied at 1-1, but that all changed.
Just ten seconds into the final frame Jake Guentzel, the rookie on a hot streak, got the go-ahead goal. Three minutes and three seconds later Scott Wilson put the Penguins up 3-1 and 15 seconds later Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh their fourth goal. With three goals in a matter of three minutes and 18 seconds, Nashville’s head coach Peter Laviolette decided it was time to slow things down and pull his starting goaltender Pekka Rinne, substituting him with backup Juuse Saros. It looked like the Penguins had their fifth goal with 13:12 remaining in the third, but Laviolette used his Coach’s Challenge suspecting that the play was offside and after review the goal was overturned.
“I think the first goal of the third period—we went out there after playing two really solid periods. They scored in the first shift. I think that put us on our heels for a few minutes. That was kind of a 50/50 puck that went towards the penalty box, and two guys went for it. They poked it. They got numbers going back the other way. Ended up scoring on a rebound on a hard-angle shot,” Laviolette said after the game. “After that we made a couple of mistakes. Those mistakes ended up going in our net. I think that’s something we need to clean up.”
Of course, the onslaught of goals in the third began with the rookie center Guenzel. With that goal, he set a new rookie record for game-winning goals in a single postseason—which currently stands at five, though there are at least two more games to be played in this series.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 1, 2017
“If he just plays the game the right way, you know, it’s winning battles. It’s the wall play. It’s gaining lines. It’s taking what the game gives you,” Guenztel’s coach Mike Sullivan said about his phenom. “When the plays are there, his instincts will take over. He’s a real talented kid.”
Back-to-back game-winning goals and his goal in Game 2 pushed his playoff goals to 12, moving him to just two goals behind Dino Ciccarelli, who potted 14 in 1981 while playing with the Minnesota North Stars.
Guentzel isn’t getting cocky though. He doesn’t believe that he’s solved Rinne, or is getting into the net minder’s head. And he knows that as the series shifts to Nashville, that the Predators will definitely get energy from their fan base.
“I think the start is huge for us. We know their building is going to be rocking. We just got to come out and set the tone early,” Guentzel told media after the game.
Both teams have a bit of a rest, as they will not play Game 3 until Saturday, June 3. However, the Predators have been strong in their home arena, and they are obviously looking to tighten things up even more. The game is scheduled for 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and should prove to be a physical one. Game 2 had plenty of pushing and shoving and a number of additional penalties, so it is likely that the hockey memories will not forget anything even if the bodies get a bit of a chance to rest.