4 PREDATORS – 1 PENGUINS
The Nashville Predators have protected home-ice and the Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-3.
Nashville’s 4-1 win in Game 4 of the Cup Final saw the Predators limit the Penguins to one goal for the second consecutive game.
Pekka Rinne had the bounces going his way and turned aside 23 of 24 saves.
This game was won in the second period in Game 3 and again in Game 4.
Calle Jarnkrok opened the scoring at 14:51 of the first period but Sidney Crosby who was the best player on the ice, would even things up a 1:06 later.
Ryan Ellis got caught in no mans land and Brian Dumoulin found a wide open Crosby for a breakaway goal to tie the game at 1-1.
It was just Crosby’s 2nd goal in his last 20 Stanley Cup Final games.
A Penguins surge after Sidney Crosby’s breakaway goal at 15:57 of the first period carried over into the early moments of the second period, but a grade-A chance from Jake Guentzel in front and then a Chris Kunitz breakaway were thwarted away from Pekka Rinne.
4th line scoring then continued for the Predators as Frederick Gaudreau scored his third goal of the Stanley Cup Final, 3:45 into the period, on a wraparound goal that initially looked stopped by Matt Murray but play was eventually called for a review and determined the puck when over the goaline.
Former Penguin Harry Zolnierczyk assisted on the goal.
Through parts of the second period, the Penguins had their largest stretches of the series of carrying the play but the Predators survived the Penguins surges with great goaltending and countered by converting on surges of their own end.
A Viktor Arvidsson breakaway goal at 13:08 of the second period put the Preds up 3-1.
Leading by two goals, the Predators pushed the play in the third period and Mattias Ekholm would add an empty net goal as the Penguins pulled the goaltender with over 3 minutes left and the move backfired as the Predators iced the game on the ensuing faceoff when Murray was pulled.
Carry over to Game 5?
— The Predators speed with the puck through the neutral zone continues to be a glaring problem for the Penguins.
That isn’t going away as the series is already four games old.
Personnel wise this is an awful series for Ron Hainsey and Olli Maatta, yet, with the Penguins trailing late in the third period and down two goals, Hainsey was still getting a regular shift.
Pittsburgh’s ‘D’ was just bad to watch in moving the puck at times and the inability to activate offensively isn’t there.
They’re not Kris Letang but there’s a couple puck movers sitting in the press box in Mark Streit and Chad Ruhwedel.
The Penguins are tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Final and with home-ice. Not a lot of coaches are going to make changes to their blueline but the Penguins badly need to get another puck-mover in there.
— Positive steps in loss that will carry over?
“Lot of things from a process standpoint we really liked,” Mike Sullivan said of his club despite scoring one goal for the second straight game. “We believe we got guys who can score goals and finish. Thought power play looked much better tonight. Process standpoint there was a lot to like. We just have to play the game the right way.”
— One of the surprises of the series is Nashville getting far better play from the center position than anticipated.
Nashville has been the quicker and more dominant team for larger stretches this series and they’re countering the Penguins high-end talent with depth scoring to even up the series.
You look at Pittsburgh tonight, they basically played with 10 forwards. Josh Archibald (5:11) played under 2 minutes after the first period. Carter Rowney played just 5:12.
A two-day break will help Nick Bonino but from the Penguins perspective, they better hope the player pushing to play in the manner that Bonino did when he was still on crutches away from the rink and limping just going through the runway at warmups, didn’t further hinder his ability to return for Game 5 or 6.
Pekka Rinne will get all the headlines tonight as he should, was very good and he found his game in Nashville. He was also as lucky as he can get on a few occasions.
Does his strong play in Nashville carry over to Game 5?
For Pittsburgh, Marc Andre Fleury will be the most popular Penguin again the next couple days and the local media and talks shows will be eating it up.
Mike Sullivan was even asked tonight who will start Game 5.
Pittsburgh had the better goaltending in Games 1 and 2, Nashville had the better goaltending in Games 3 and 4.
We now have a 2-2 series.
Murray certainly cracked a bit the last two games after looking unbeatable in Game 2 but I think there could be a strong carryover from how he looked in the third period.
That was potentially big where he was tested a number of times and kept Pittsburgh in the game. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"