Mitch Linsley, Dump & Change | May 31, 2017 |10:15pm
PITTSBURGH, PA – Once again, Penguins goaltender Matt Murray heavily outplayed his Predators counterpart Pekka Rinne. However, tonight’s game saw Rinne get chased out of the net after 3 early 3rd period goals that put the game out of reach for Nashville.
The Predators we’re getting make up calls early (I say make up calls because of PK’s disallowed goal and the 2 minute 5-on-3 power play from game 1) with the refs awarding them a 2 minute 5-on-3 power play of their own due to a crosscheck from Kunitz to the head of Subban and a questionable slashing call on Malkin. However, unlike the Penguins in game 1, Nashville didn’t capitalize on their 2 man advantage, instead taking a penalty themselves. Nashville had a lot of chances early on and Pens goalie Matt Murray stood tall for Pittsburgh. The Predators’ early pressure paid off with Pontus Aberg’s nasty tally from Arvidsson and Fisher where he absolutely undressed Olli Maatta who was left to dry by his teammates.
The Penguins’ Jake Guentzel stayed hot and notched his 11th goal (leads NHL playoffs) of the postseason tying him for second place in rookie postseason scoring history. Pekka Rinne was soft on this one, allowing Guentzel to grab his own rebound after taking a corner pass from linemate Conor Sheary. Crosby and Subban went at it a little as well while tempers were absolutely flaring in an opening frame that ended 1-1. Sidney Crosby went 3 for 14 in the faceoff circle so if you ask me, the Pens were lucky to escape the period tied.
The 2nd period offered much of the same. Physical, defensive play engulfed the period as neither team scored despite multiple scrums around each net. Cody McLeod took another obvious run at a goalie but this time didn’t draw a call which I found odd because one would assume he’s at the top of the Zebras’ watch list.
The opening minutes of the 3rd period decided the game. Jake Guentzel stayed scorching hot, scoring 10 seconds into the period from a Brian Rust rebound that left him wide open in the slot, he didn’t even have to lift the puck. At this point Guentzel had the last 3 non-empty net goals for the Pens. Scott Wilson scored soon after 3:13 in from Cullen, who won a huge battle on the boards then threw it in the zone to Kessel who dished it to Wilson. Just 15 second later, Malkin scored on an absolute lazer of a shot that found the top left corner of the net, prompting Peter Laviolette to pull Rinne out if the game.
Patrik Hornqvist scored soon after but it was overturned on an offside call (RIP the over) and the game held at 4-1 as the Preds just wanted to get out of the building, not even pulling their goalie at the end.
Nashville definitely wishes they would have capitalized on the Pens’ game one flop because that was definitely the Pittsburghs’ stinker (see game 1 recap). 3 goals in the span of like 2 minutes put the Predators down like a poacher’s poison dart and they never recovered. I’ll stand by my pre series prediction of Penguins in 6 but I wouldn’t be shocked if this series only went 4 or 5 with how Rinne has been playing. My pregame prediction of the Preds winning 4-3 was obviously wrong, should have waited for game 1 in Nashville to make that one. Frustrations and tempers flared late as Malkin and Subban got into a fight but ended up just kind of hugging for a little bit, although I think the ref might have inadvertently taken a shot from Malkin. The fact that the refs even let them go at it says a lot about the series, when was the last time two superstars fought in a Stanley Cup Final?
If I’m a Preds fan, I’m in full panic mode, and if I’m a Pens fan I’m trying to savor every second of being on the cusp of repeating as champs, especially since it hasn’t been done since the ‘97 and ‘98 Red Wings. I know it was only game 2 but tonight’s poor performance from Rinne deflated Nashville. It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments the Preds make now that the series is in Tennessee for 2 games. Pittsburgh is now the only team in NHL history to win 2 finals games in a row despite being outshot by 10 or more in both games. That’s gotta sting for Nashville. If they want any chance to hang in this series, Rinne needs to get his game back. If the Pens manage to take game 3 in Nashville, this series is all but over as no team has ever come back down 0-3 in the finals.