(Photo: By Stephen Yeargin from Nashville, Tenn., United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
As the city of Nashville played host to its first ever Stanley Cup Final game, doing so with all the energy and fanfare one would expect from the home of country music, a gauntlet had been thrown down by Nashville Predator P.K. Subban after their loss in Game 2. He insisted that the Nashville Predators would win Game 3.
"We're going to win the next game."
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 1, 2017
As Game 3 got underway, the energy from the crowd was like nothing else, and it was of utmost importance to Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan to take the crowd out it, by striking first. As none other than Jake Guentzel got the Penguins on the board first—with his 13th goal of the postseason—it looked like Sullivan would have his way and Pittsburgh would control Game 3.
Going into the first intermission the score was still 1-0 in the Penguins favor, though the crowd was definitely still in full support of their Predators. Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz was whistled for holding against Harry Zolnlercyk giving the Predators their first power play at 4:13 of the second period. It was the opening they needed. Roman Josi got the tying goal.
Josi’s goal was the beginning of an onslaught of goals for the Predators—five in all, with the go-ahead goal, and game winner, scored 42 seconds after Josi’s by Frederick Gaudreau. James Neal would give the Predators some breathing room with a goal 23 seconds before the end of the second period.
Pittsburgh’s turnovers throughout the game had offered the Predators a couple of odd-man rushes, but the one that allowed Craig Smith’s unassisted goal just under five minutes into the third period for Nashville proved to be the biggest mistake.
Nashville’s fifth goal was another power play goal, scored by Mattias Ekholm at 13:10 of the third. Ekholm was the 19th Predator to score in the postseason, showing that every one of the Predators contributes in one way or another.
After Pekka Rinne was pulled from Game 2, there was some discussion as to whether or not Rinne would play in Game 3—all of this discussion outside of the Predator’s locker room where Rinne knew he would be playing. However, his performance in Game 3 showed that despite Pittsburgh’s getting the first goal, Rinne shut the door after that and his confidence grew as the game progressed.
It was clearly not Pittsburgh’s best game. While they won the most faceoffs, they were outshot in the first two periods, and they were again denied while on the man advantage three times, making them just 1 for 13 in the series on the power play.
As the game progressed, the nastiness increased especially in the third period. Ultimately five players were shown to the showers early, given 10-minute misconducts: Patric Hornqvist (Penguins) and Ekholm (Predators) at 15:38; Chris Kunitz (Penguins), Matt Cullen (Penguins), and Austin Watson (Predators) at 17:01.
While the players have a day to cool off, it is likely that Game 4 could continue to see the pushing and shoving after the whistles. And with the decisive win in Game 3, the Predators are even hungrier. It should make for a very interesting game, to be certain, when the two teams take to the ice Monday night at 8:00 PM Eastern.