Penguins 6 – Predators 0
(PIT Leads Series, 3-2)
The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Wasn’t this supposed to have been the Predators night?
[‘Penguins are fatigued’]
[‘Nashville has all the momentum and advantage in a best-of-3’]
[‘Pekka Rinne is on his way to winning the Conn Smythe’]
[‘Pittsburgh would play harder and be more motivated for Game 5 if Fleury started’]
Those were some of the talking points from pundits heading into tonight’s game 5.
What played out tonight at the PPG Paints Arena was the defending Stanley Cup Champions delivering a beat down to the Nashville Predators with a 6-0 win to take a 3-2 series lead.
And this was a beat down in all facets.
What the Penguins did was follow the lead of Sidney Crosby’s greatness.
This performance in Game 5 from Sidney Crosby was none other than ‘greatness’ from #87.
Crosby single handily dominated this game from the drop of the puck and looks like a man possessed to deliver another Stanley Cup.
Don’t bet against it.
“I just think he [Sidney Crosby] has such a drive to be the best and he’s willing to do what it takes,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said of Crosby. “He doesn’t just show up to the arena and put his equipment on. His off-ice habits are exceptional. I saw it early on [tonight]. He has so much care for this organization to helping this team win. What separates him [from everyone else] is his drive.”
50 seconds in Crosby splits the ‘D’, nearly brings down the house with a highlight reel goal and draws a holding penalty by Ryan Ellis.
It was game over from there.
Justin Schultz scores a 1:31 into the game on the power play and the Penguins led by Crosby never let off the gas.
The Penguins scored three times on nine shots in the first period in chasing Pekka Rinne and then added three more in the second period.
Out of nowhere the Penguins were the faster team for the first time in the series, their offensive game was dynamite in transition, and what this club did was feed off Crosby who had a 3 assist night but the way Crosby dominated the game in all three zones might have been the finest playoff game he’s ever played.
He was that good.
“He’s pretty inspirational when he plays that way,” 19 year veteran Matt Cullen said of Crosby. “He’s our leader on and off the ice. He led tonight.”
The other stars were great and followed suit.
Evgeni Malkin a goal and assist. Phil Kessel broke out with a goal, 2 assists, and it was just a fascinating night in the type of performances the Penguins got from others.
Chris Kunitz looked like he went back into time. He was a human bowling ball in flying around the ice and crushing the Predators ‘D’ on the forecheck and what can you say about Ron Hainsey.
He was very aggressive defensively and looked like Paul Coffey in going end to end to lead the rush and finishing off the sequence by burying a feed from Evgeni Malkin to push the Penguins lead to 6-0.
Hainsey was named the No. 3 star of the game.
In the waning seconds of Game 5 the chants of “We Want the Cup” were rampant at the PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins lost a Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Final after winning Game 5 by a 7-0 score. Pittsburgh was also on the other side in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final where they were blown out in Game 5 and came back to win the series.
Tonight’s stomping of the Predators doesn’t mean this series is over but the Penguins have found their game later in a series again like they did last series.
“We know we’re going to face a desperate team,” Sidney Crosby said of the Predators in looking ahead to Game 6.
The Penguins dictated the play and their fast start was attributed to not sitting back.
“We have to make sure we continue to go after them,” Sidney Crosby said in building momentum of tonight’s win and bringing that to Sunday night.
Predators defenseman PK Subban who was involved in a skirmish with Sidney Crosby late in the first period, appalauded the Penguins performance tonight in how the Penguins are a Cup Champion and know what it takes to win this type of game.