A three-goal outburst to start the third period gave the Pittsburgh Penguins what they needed to defeat the Nashville Predators, 4-1, in Game Two and take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
The two clubs entered the third period locked in a 1-1 tie, but Pittsburgh exploded for three goals in less than four minutes to start the final frame, leading the team to its second win in as many tries to begin the series.
As they did in Game One, Nashville had long stretches that saw them outplay the opposition, but an opportunistic Penguins team made the most of their chances once more, leading to Wednesday’s result.
“It seems every little breakdown we have, they come back and get something, so we just have to shore up our all around defense,” Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “The effort was there, the result wasn’t. We need to be tighter within our system.”
“They got one early in the third and got a little bit of life,” Preds Captain Mike Fisher said. “Similar to last game, they got just one stretch with three or four minutes that just killed us. We can’t have those stretches if we want to beat this team.”
The Predators threw 18 shots on the Pittsburgh net in the opening frame, including a few during a 5-on-3 man advantage, but the most impressive of the 18 came from Pontus Aberg to make it 1-0.
After taking a pass from Viktor Arvidsson in the Penguins zone, Aberg drove around Olli Maatta and to the net before roofing a shot past the outstretched Matt Murray for his second goal of the playoffs. Before the period was out, however, Jake Guentzel tallied his 11th of the postseason when he poked the puck past Pekka Rinne to even the score.
Nashville continued to control play for a majority of the second period, and with a pair of stellar penalty kills as well, held Pittsburgh off the score sheet while outshooting them 32-19 through 40 minutes.
A second goal from Guentzel only 10 seconds into the third period started a Penguins rally that saw them pot three early in the frame for a 4-1 lead, spelling the end of Rinne’s night in favor of Juuse Saros. The game settled back down after the outburst, but the score held to put the Preds in the loss column again, even though their play for most of the contest would suggest they deserved better.
“We’ve done some good things,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “For five and half periods we really liked things that we did, but there’s just a stretch where they gain some momentum and they are able to capitalize and be opportunistic. That swung two games in their favor. We just need more consistency, but certainly we’re happy to get home.”
“We have to be better defensively and find ways to beat Murray, so we’ll look at that, we’ll find ways and we’re going to get better, no question,” Fisher said. “We’ll clean that up and our focus now is Game Three and going home with a crowd that’s going to be electric. We’re going to feed off that energy, and we’re going to be ready.”
From here, the Predators will head home to host their first two Stanley Cup Final games in franchise history in search of their first victory and a chance to get back into the series, something they intend on doing.
“We’re looking at ourselves, and right away, the focus shifts to we don’t lose in our building,” Preds d-man P.K. Subban said. “We’re going back home, we’re going to win the next game and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Nashville will now prepare to host its first two Stanley Cup Final games in franchise history as the series shifts to Tennessee. Game Three comes Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena while Game Four is set for Monday evening, both 7 p.m. CT starts in Music City.