As the puck dropped on Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final series, it looked like both teams had been cautioned about the pushing and shoving after whistles that had taken place, and ultimately gotten out of hand, during Game 3. And it looked like the Nashville Predators struggled a bit in the opening of the first period in pulling together sharp passes—though given the way the puck bounced throughout the entire game, this could have had more to do with that than their play. Neither the Predators nor the Pittsburgh Penguins were finding much space on the ice to accomplish much—especially shots on goal. Unlike earlier games, the Predators were finding it much more difficult to get shots through on Matt Murray.
The Predators did get the first goal of the game, as Calle Jarnkrok got himself in front of the net, putting Murray’s rebound in the back of the net. Pittsburgh’s head coach, Mike Sullivan, would use his Coach’s Challenge asserting that there had been goaltender interference by Craig Smith, who was tied up by Olli Maatta—who had also turned over the puck. However, after review the goal stood and Nashville’s faithful were cheering.
Their lead however would be short-lived, as Sidney Crosby, who was denied a single shot on net in Game 3, found himself on a breakaway and was able to freeze the Predators’ net minder Pekka Rinne just 1:06 later, with a puck that ultimately ricocheted off the post and off Rinne’s skate and in. The teams would go to the first intermission tied at one, while neither team had an outstanding period.
As the second period got underway, Pittsburgh had another amazing chance that Rinne denied and as play headed the other way, it originally looked like Murray had likewise made an impressive stop, denying the wrap-around attempt by rookie Frederick Gaudreau. As the Predators regrouped in their end, getting ready to make another entry, the horn sounded, and upon review from Toronto, it was shown that Gaudreau’s wrap-around was in fact successful, putting the Predators up 2-1.
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Ten minutes later, Viktor Arvidsson would give the Predators some breathing room, as his wrist shot sent the puck past Murray on the glove side. It would have been unlikely that Arvidsson would have had the chance he did for that goal had it not been for the diving poke checks by first James Neal back in Nashville’s end and then by Mike Fisher in the neutral zone to keep the puck moving and ultimately landing on Arvidsson’s stick.
As the third period began to get under four minutes, Sullivan pulled Murray when Nashville iced the puck. However, Crosby wasn’t able to win the faceoff. In a set play from Colton Sissons’ draw, though he didn’t get an assist, he got the puck to P.K. Subban who shoveled it to Mattias Ekholm in the corner. Ekholm sent the puck behind Rinne’s net to Filip Forsberg, who sent it 197 feet down the sheet of ice and into the vacated Pittsburgh net.
The contributions from so many of the Predators continues to speak to the depth of the team. Many of the goals throughout the playoffs have come from defensemen, but almost their entire lineup now has had a goal.
“We need contributions, need everybody on point here,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of his team. “I said this the other day, you’re at a point in the season where you sink or swim. Guys have to step up. Colton has to step up. Calle has to step up. Jarny has to step up. Freddy Gaudreau steps in; he has to step up. If he doesn’t, it makes it difficult to move forward. Fiddler jumps in, gives us important games. Those are your only two choices. We need to have guys continue to play the game at a high level because of where we’re at in the season right now.”
Despite the Penguins having a power play opportunity with 2:38 remaining in the third, it was all over except for the final buzzer. Though neither team scored on the man-advantage in Game 4, this lack of production is clearly more worrisome for the Penguins, who are now one for 16 on the power play. Their giveaways were costlier in Game 4, as they had been in Game 3, as well.
“The only thing I would say is I thought a couple of the goals tonight, a couple of the goals in the prior game, you know there were things that we could have done that were preventable, let’s put it that way. They were very preventable,” Sullivan said after the game. “The breakaway goal [Arvidsson’s goal] for me tonight is an example. We have to have a bit of awareness away from the puck. If we do that, it’s a nothing play.”
Perhaps it has something to do with the Predators finding themselves on home ice in front of an astoundingly supportive fan base. Or perhaps they have just found their rhythm in their first ever Stanley Cup Final round and are buying in to what their coach is saying. It will be interesting to see if they can carry this momentum forward into Game 5, as the teams return to Pittsburgh to play on Thursday, June 8 at 8:00pm Eastern.
Highlights of the game: