#8 Nashville Predatorsvs.#7 Pittsburgh Penguins
Written by Valdis Pans
Pittsburgh Penguins (64-27-8-5) vs. Nashville Predators (54-34-9-4)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Monday, June 5, 2017
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Lines: Pittsburgh +135 / Nashville -155
The Nashville Predators will remain on own ice in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, having cut the initial 2-0 series lead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in half during the previous contest…
Despite having bagged victories in Games 1 (5-3) and 2 (4-1), while being outshot 64-39 in both combined, the Pittsburgh Penguins (64-27-13) couldn’t squeeze out a miracle in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. The hosts once again dominated the proceedings, this time also coming out with the final score (5-1) to prove it. The Penguins allowed three goals in the second period, giving up further two in the final frame. They were outshot 33-28, went 0-for-3 on power play, while killing just one of the three man-advantage opportunities from the Preds. Sidney Crosby (56 goals, 160 points in 145 post-season outings) and Evgeni Malkin (57 goals, 155 points in 146 playoff fixtures) both couldn’t manage a single shot on goal.
Jake Guentzel (13 goals, 20 points in 22 post-season contests) bagged the only marker for the visitors, netting on Pittsburgh’s second shot of the game just 2:46 minutes into the opening frame. He is now just one goal shy of matching Dino Ciccarelli’s (Minnesota North Stars, 1981) rookie record of 14 snipes in a single playoff campaign. Goalie Matt Murray (20-8 on his post-season duties with a 2.05 GAA and a .925 save percentage) allowed the highest number of goals in his playoff career, making a total of 28 saves. He is 5-2 for the ongoing term with a 1.96 GAA, a .930 save percentage and one shutout. The Penguins, meanwhile, are still netting the highest quantity of goals per game during the current post-season (3.09), while conceding the 6th lowest quantity on the defensive end (2.41). They are 4th in power play with a 21.7% success rate (15-for-69) and rank 9th in penalty kill with 81.5% capability (53-for-65).
The Nashville Predators (54-34-13) were arguably the best team in every aspect of the game during the first two outings of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, apart from goals scored. So, it was really unsurprising that the Preds, who have lost just once on their own ice during the 2017 post-season (8-1), delivered a night to forget to the defending champions, cutting their series lead to 2-1 with a convincing 5-1 trouncing at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. Despite trailing the game 1-0 after the first 20 minutes, the hosts exploded offensively in the following period, with Roman Josi (8 goals, 24 points in 49 playoff matchups) netting the 1-1 equalizer as well as providing assists to each of the following two goals netted in the middle session.
Frederick Gaudreau (2 goals, 2 points in 5 post-season appearances) and James Neal (25 goals, 43 points in 77 playoff outings) rounded off the scoring in the second period, while Craig Smith (4 goals, 10 points in 26 post-season contests) and Mattias Ekholm (5 goals, 18 points in 39 playoff games) got on the score-board in the third, both finding the back of the net for the first time this post-season, extending Nashville’s goal-scoring chart to 19 different players during the ongoing playoffs. Goalie Pekka Rinne, who has gone 35-32 in his post-season career with a 2.36 GAA and a .917 save percentage, won his first ever start against the Penguins (1-7-2) with a solid 27-save performance. He is 13-6 for this year’s playoff campaign with a 1.93 GAA, a .931 save percentage and two shutouts. The Predators, meanwhile, are 2nd in most goals scored per game during the current post-season (2.95), 2nd in least goals given up on average (2.05), 6th in power play with a 19.3% turnaround (11-for-57) and 4th in penalty kill with 89.1% efficiency (49-for-55).
The Predators have been excellent on their own ice during the whole season, going 32-9-9 at Bridgestone Arena so far. They have won 12 of their last 13 playoff home games, dating back to last year, with the only loss coming against the Anaheim Ducks in overtime. With the sell-out crowd (including the likes of Carrie Underwood, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban) firmly behind them, the Preds are in the driving seat on their own ice, expertly limiting the potential offensive threat of the Pens. Evgeni Malkin not only didn’t have a shot on goal, but also failed to create a single attempt in Game 3, which is more than a compliment to Nashville’s defensive stability when they are in the comfort of their own four walls. Having bagged 11 goals in their last two domestic outings alone, you can be sure the Preds will not be just defending, mind…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...