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Insider Only Stanley Cup Final: A first period of what might have been for the Penguins in blowout loss

Predators 5 – Penguins 1

(PIT Leads series, 2-1)


Winning three straight Stanley Cup Final games is very difficult to do.

Few should be shocked to see the Predators climb back in the series with a 5-1 win in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.

For the Penguins they saw the Predators turn the tables on them.

Jake Guentzel scored 2:46 into the game, his NHL leading 13th goal of the playoffs and the Penguins held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.

A road game in the Stanley Cup Final against a team that was going to be pretty much fighting for their lives, you’ll take a lead after one in that atmosphere.

Nashville, though, would breakthrough in the second period with goals 42 seconds apart from Roman Josi and Frederick Gaudreau to take their first lead of the game and a James Neal goal with 22 seconds left in the second period was a crusher.

Pittsburgh was vulnerable to odd-man rushes all game and none more evident than in the third period when trailing by two goals.

A Craig Smith UNASSISTED breakaway goal, 4:51 into the third period off a miscue at center ice between Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel would be the dagger and pretty much end any hopes of a Penguins comeback.

The Smith breakaway goal was the Penguins sixth odd-man rush at that point (44:51 of game played) and the second breakaway chance allowed in the period.

There were concerning aspects again with the Penguins play.

Nashville’s speed continues to overwhelm the Penguins through the neutral zone and tonight the Predators got results off the Penguins breakdowns and poor puck management. Pittsburgh was also a possession nightmare for the third straight game, something they’ve overcome for much of the playoffs but is still a storyline.

The Penguins have a 2-1 series lead because of quick strike offense and goaltending. None of those factors were able to bail Pittsburgh out tonight.

Strength (Penguins high-end forwards) vs strength (Predators blueline) was also decidedly in the Predators favor in Game 3.

Roman Josi a goal, 2 assists and 6 shots, was the best player on the ice.

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby were held without a shot. Pittsburgh is still waiting for Phil Kessel to show up this series.

Still, the first period should be looked at as a period of what might have been.

The Penguins got the early lead with the Guentzel goal and Pekka Rinne was once again fighting the puck. There was a dump-in from center ice he couldn’t handle properly and the opportunity was there for Pittsburgh to jump on Rinne but the Penguins let him off the hook.

They managed just six shots in period one and 4 shots in the final 17 minutes of the period.

What played out was Rinne getting more comfortable and gaining more confidence as the game progressed, especially after the Predators got the lead.

The Penguins power play haunted them from building a multi-goal lead in the first period and there’s a good chance this game might have went in another direction if Pittsburgh could have delivered on the man-advantage.

Getting a shot on goal might have helped.

[Up 1-0, Carl Hagelin draws a holding penalty and a golden opportunity for the Penguins to pad their lead to 2-0.

The Penguins get 0 shots on the power play.

12:44 of the first period, a Predators too many men penalty.

The Penguins gets 0 shots on the power play.]

Pittsburgh 0-3 on the power play in the loss, had one power play shot. The Predators had 5 shorthanded shots as the Penguins shot differential when on the power play was minus-4.

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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