Nashville Predators' goalie Pekka Rinne has struggled through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, allowing eight goals on 36 shots. Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraskan provided the victor in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs.
Just 15 seconds later, Evgeni Malkin scored off of a two-on-one, firing a ideal shot over Rinne's glove for a 4-1 lead. He came into the series 1-5-2 with a.880 save percentage and 3.57 goals-against average in his career against the Penguins, numbers that ticked in the wrong direction even though he spent a majority of three periods standing in his crease with nothing to do while his teammates were at work at the other end of the ice.
After the Malkin goal, Predators coach Peter Laviolette turned to backup Juuse Saros, another awful performance for Rinne against the Penguins in the books; in four career starts in Pittsburgh before Wednesday, Rinne was 0-4 with a 4.71 goals-against average and an.831 save percentage. The second, a sniper shot by Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel exactly 37 minutes later, put Pittsburgh back in front to stay at 4-3.
The Penguins completely overpowered the Predators, particularly during the third period.
Nashville were oozing confidence at the start of the week given an impressive playoff run in which they beat two division winners in Chicago and Anaheim, and a 99-point St. Louis team to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. Now he's the biggest reason the Predators head back to "Smashville" for Game 3 on Saturday night reeling. If this is rope-a-dope they are the knockout power, and it was Crosby's faceoff win that started the second goal, Kessel who set up the second, Malkin who scored the third. Guentzel pounced on a rebound from Pekka Rinne, and just passed it into the net past the goaltender.
The Predators, who hadn't lost two straight playoff games this spring until the Final, hope to feed off the enthusiasm of their fans in Game 3.
"He has a calming presence back there for us", Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said. We're leaving them odd-man rushes.
The 22-year-old Guentzel has produced 12 goals in 21 postseason games.
Just imagine how many points he would have had he not gone the entire Eastern Conference final without scoring a goal.
Nashville led in shots 18-12 at the end of the first, thanks to a late flurry. A goal goes in, and he can play the exact same way after that. The 34-year-old has now faced the Penguins 10 times in his National Hockey League career and beaten them only once.
The Penguins will look to take one step closer in their quest to become the first team to win back to back Stanley Cups since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. It was a rather chaotic game, encapsulated in this freakish scene shown during the pregame (although it happened during the West final), which also happens to be the greatest gif in hockey history.
"I just try to make the next save", Murray said.
With less than four minutes remaining in the first, Game 1 hero Guentzel tied things up when he followed up a Conor Sheary rebound and snuck a backhand through Rinne's equipment. "We know the ultimate goal is two more wins".
"Our focus is Game 3 and going home to a crowd that's going to be electric", Predators' captain Mike Fisher said.
This is his first year pro, coming out of college where he is not used to playing the National Hockey League schedule and the demands of that, particularly a long playoff run.
Malkin, however, appeared to see things differently and said after the game that he was willing to forgive Subban for the defenceman's role in the fight.
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