In my prediction post, I wrote that James Neal would make some bone headed plays that would hurt him and his team. I also predicted that both Guentzel and Sheary would get back on the score sheet. All three of those things happened tonight. After a Nashville goal was disallowed in the first period, the Pens would respond with 3 goals in 5 minutes. The Pens Would surrender the next three goals in the second and third period to tie the game. The Pens showed just why they are the defending champions as there was no panic. They would get a bounce back goal from Jake Guentzel to give them the lead with just under 4 minutes to play. That goal was the first shot on goal for the Pens in nearly 40 minutes. Pittsburgh would add an empty net goal to finish them off. Final score game one, Pens 5 Preds 3.
The Pens would have 8 shots on goal in the first period and would convert on three. Then their next shot came with just 3:17 left in the game. Though that next shot went in and gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead. Pittsburgh would get outshot in the game 26-12.
Pekka Rinne was 1-5-2 against the Pens coming into this game. He would give up a weak first goal as he was able to see the puck the entire way. He needs to make that save. With that said, It was Malkin that ripped the snap shot to the net that Rinne could not handle. That goal came on a 5 on 3 that occurred because of a BONE HEADED cross check by none other than James Neal.
Then moments later Sidney Crosby would set up Conor Sheary for his first goal of playoffs to extend the lead 2-0. Minutes later Nick Bonino would throw a puck near the net that would go off the leg of a Predators player to give the Penguins a 3-0 lead with around two minutes to play in the period.
In the second period, the Predators would start to dictate play as the Pens would try to push the puck down the boards and see it thrown back time and again. The Predators would get some good opportunities because of it. They would convert a goal to cut the lead to 3-1 by the end of the period. Ryan Ellis would score the goal on the power play which came by way of a stupid penalty taken by Malkin. The Pens did not register a shot on net in the period and that trend would continue nearly all the way through the third.
In the third period, Nashville would tack on 2 more, the first of which came on yet another power play. Colton Sissons would net the Preds goal to cut the lead to 3-2. Then, midway through the third period the Predators would tie the game as Frederick Gaudreau would score his first of the playoffs. At that point the Predators had all the momentum. But it would be a Penguins team that knows how to dig deep when they needed it most. Like a team that has played in games like this before. It was Jake Guentzel that would score his 10th of the playoffs to give the Pens the momentum and the lead.
Shortly after the goal, the Pens would click on an empty net opportunity by Nick Bonino, his second of the game. That would be the final goal and the final score, Pens 5 Predators 3.
Observations: Mike Sullivan had to really do some line swapping as his team was flat after that 3-0 lead. They looked lost on the ice, some of that reason though was because of that Predators defense. It was stifling and left absolutely no room most of the time. It did not look like they had their legs for almost two full periods. It looked like they sat on the lead and tried to hold on.
The Pens need to shoot more often as they just proved to themselves that all shots have a shot to get through Rinne. After the game Coach Peter Laviolette said Rinne had been solid throughout the playoffs and this is the type of game that is tough for a goalie. He saw so few shots, and then none at all for 38 minutes. It is tough to stay sharp in a situation like that.
The Pens did have some opportunities to shoot, but they tried to carry the puck down the boards and around the net and make passes through the middle. But in every case the Predators stole the puck or poked it away. The Penguins need to look less for that beautiful play and more on just getting pucks on net because Rinne could have this game in the back of his head.
Malkin needs to also control his emotions so that they do not give the Predators more chances.
The Predators quickness and speed was a problem for the flat skating Pens from the second period on. It was not until late in the third the Pens legs woke back up again. Sullivan needs to figure out another way for the Pens to get the puck up the ice. The line changes will not be necessary if he can figure a way to get the puck up the ice.
Mike Sullivan said “They weren’t very good. They had no push back in the period.”
Takeaways: The Pens can look at this game as they escaped or they stole a win. The Predators can look at the game as a missed opportunity because they out played the Pens. Rinne has a terrible record against the Penguins and tonight was just one more example of that. I think although Nashville probably feels good about their play, that game has to be deflating for them. And if the Pens are to get on the board first in Game 2, that could trigger a domino effect. I also predicted that Rinne would get pulled at some point in time in this series.
Below is the Some post-game audio from the Penguins’ locker room: