NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two goals within 42 seconds in the second period turned the tide and brought the Nashville Predators back into the series in a big way with a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of a raucous Game 3 crowd in the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.
With the win, the Predators now trail 2-1 in the series.
How it happened: Jake Guentzel opened the scoring less than three minutes in, cleaning up the rebound off an Ian Cole slap shot from the point. The goal put a serious wet blanket on the crowd, as the Penguins did what they set out to do — play their game and take the crowd out of it early. But the crowd was back to boisterous for good after Roman Josi — on the power play — and Frederick Gaudreau scored in rapid succession to give the Predators the lead. James Neal stuffed one in on the glove side with 22 seconds left in the second and it was 3-1. A breakaway finish by Craig Smith made it 4-1 at 4:54 of the third. Mattias Ekholm rounded out the scoring with Sidney Crosby in the box.
Barry Melrose’s take: Nashville looked like the Nashville Predators of the previous rounds. Their defenseman scored on a one-timer, which was their bread and butter in previous series. Very tough to defend against. They killed off penalties; Pittsburgh is 0-for-10 in the past two games on the power play. Pittsburgh was not playing fast — the Penguins seemed very unexcited in a game like this. They were taking Nashville for granted or something; they don’t have the same intensity. And Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was very solid, apart from the first goal.
Key stat: Crosby has one goal in his past 19 Stanley Cup Final games.
Fish market sales report: One catfish was thrown in warm-ups and one in the third period (?). But that was it, despite the pregame hoopla. Security was really tight, apparently.
Conn Smythe watch: 1. Jake Guentzel, Penguins. The rookie has worked his way into the leading spot with his 13th goal of the postseason, one short of the record by Dino Ciccarelli. Where would the Penguins be without him? 2. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins; 3. Sidney Crosby, Penguins; 4. Roman Josi, Predators; 5. Pekka Rinne, Predators
What’s next: Game 4 of the series is Monday in Nashville, 8 p.m. ET.