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Predators Feast on Floundering Penguins, 5-1 – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Predators Feast on Floundering Penguins, 5-1

Unlike the king-sized catfish that landed with a splat on the otherwise pristine Bridgestone Arena ice before the opening faceoff, the Penguins let Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final wriggle off the hook.

It was theirs for the taking. After scoring the opening goal on a hustling second-effort tally by Jake Guentzel—his 13th of this magical playoff run—the Pens looked poised and in control.

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By contrast, the home-standing Predators appeared tight as a drum. Goalie Pekka Rinne seemed especially shaky as he struggled to find his game.

Then, as they’ve done so often throughout these playoffs, the Pens took their collective foot off the gas pedal. This time it cost ‘em.

Nashville evened the score on the power play, courtesy of a phantom holding penalty to Pens defenseman Justin Schultz early in the second period. Emboldened by their stroke of fortune, the Predators snatched the lead 42 seconds later on a quick-strike tally by Frederick Gaudreau, the second of the series for the unheralded rookie from tiny Bromont, Quebec.

Credit the Preds. Once they climbed on top they refused to let up, all the while capitalizing on the myriad opportunities afforded by the visitors.

Former Pen James Neal exorcised some demons with a crushing sharp-angle goal 23 seconds before the second-period horn. After the Preds staved off a mild push by the locals to start the final period, Craig Smith pounced on a Chris Kunitz turnover in the neutral zone to score on a breakaway, pretty much sticking a fork in any chance of a black-and-gold comeback.

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Hulking Mattias Ekholm applied the piece de resistance at 13:10, blasting the puck past a beleaguered Matt Murray from the high slot for his first goal of the playoffs.

Some games, the other guys are just better. Such was the case in Music City last night.

From a Pens perspective, there was precious little to cheer. With the notable exception of the 27 seconds they spent together in the penalty box late in the third period, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were next to invisible…a rare occurrence.

Great as they are, Sid and Geno aren’t supermen. They’re going to have off nights once in a while. However, they’ll need to resurrect the “Two-Headed Monster” of yore in Game Four if the Pens expect to turn the tide.

Hopefully, the sweet nothings P.K. Subban whispered in Crosby’s ear at the end of the game twanged a nerve. Save for a crunching board check on Ryan Ellis that landed No. 87 in the sin bin, Sid’s competitive dander wasn’t up in Game Three.

Which brings me to my deepest, darkest fear. I still believe the Pens are the superior team, even in the wake of last night’s dreadful 5-1 hiding. But games aren’t played on paper. They’re contested on the ice, where intangibles such as heart, passion and drive often trump pure skill.

Can we match Nashville’s hunger?

The Preds have never won a Stanley Cup. They want one in the worst way. As evidenced by their full-on effort last night, they’re willing to pay any price—physically or otherwise—to attain it.

On the flip side, with our perimeter play and reluctance to crash the net, the Pens looked very much like a team that wanted to find its way around an obstacle, rather than meeting it head on.

I repeat the question. Can we match Nashville’s hunger?

Time will tell…

Puckpourri

Nashville held the edge in shot attempts (60-51), shots on goal (33-28) and hits (33-26). The Penguins won 53 percent of the faceoffs and blocked 20 shots to the Preds’ 12. The Pens committed 12 giveaways.

The Predators were 2 for 3 on the power play. They’ve converted 4 of 10 opportunities with the man advantage. The Pens were 0 for 3. They’re 1 for 13 in the series.

Despite the outcome, Murray made a number of key stops, including a blocker pad save on Calle Jarnkrok midway through the first period. “Muzz” was beaten to the glove side on four of the five Nashville goals.

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The defensive tandem of Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey had a rough night. Each finished a minus-2, as did Kunitz and Phil Kessel. Matt Cullen, Patric Hornqvist and Kunitz earned 10-minute misconduct penalties, the result of a pair of late-game scuffles.

Carl Hagelin replaced Nick Bonino, who suffered an ankle injury in Game Two. The Pens are 6-6 this postseason with “Hags” in the lineup. Carter Rowney moved from right wing to center.

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12 Comments

  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    June 6, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Guys and Gals,
    A much better team effort than game 3 but unfortunately the same result occurred. We lost 4 to 1 with one goal being scored in an empty net. Rinne stole the game for sure. Jake G. had at least 4 golden opportunities to score last night but failed to connect.Malkin had a couple of great chances as well. Sidney was all over the ice.What an effort from him.He scored our lone goal last night. Chris Kunitz had a breakaway and Rinne stopped him.
    We are not the only team that has a rookie success story. The 24 year old not drafted, AHL replacement for Ryan Johanson,Freddy Gaudreau has become the first Rookie to score all 3 goals in a Cup Finals.His wrap around goal was the straw that broke the camels back. Murray almost had it, but as we all know in Hockey, almost does not win games. 2 game winning goals from a kid not supposed to play because he was not good enough. I think his AHL days are done. Once again the Preds speed and their team defense cost us the game, combined with great goal tending. Just like Chicago ?
    Shades of 2016 !
    Now it has become a best of 3 for the Cup. We now have to win game 5.
    HNIC did an analysis last night of all the goals scored on Murray and where they were located. 5 were his upper glove side, and 3 were his lower glove side and 2 were thru the 5 hole. The rest were in assorted areas, screened shots that he could not see.
    Big qusetion is? Do we start MAF ?
    Cheers

  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    June 4, 2017 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    Thinking about the meltdown in Nashville last night and how after a fast paced first 15 minutes the Pen’s failed to keep pace with the speedy Preds. Also give Rinne credit. He elevated his play in the second period and made some great saves and we got caught pressing which led to several odd man rushes and or all out breakaways. You can not win games that way. Not in the Cup finals.
    Rick I going to list some concerns about the Pen’s I have. No specific order.
    1. We have never played a complete 60 minute, 3 period, 100 % effort game yet !! It seems we run out of energy or the Pred’s got faster as a game progresses. Why ??
    2. We can not sustain a fore check against this team. We lose to many puck battles along the boards and when we get the puck we throw the pass up and it is intercepted by a Pred’s pinching d man.
    3. Our power play needs to be revamped. They have made adjustments. The Pred’s are to good with the sticks to pass thru the box and Ekholm is big and can handle Sid at the side of the net. Plus they collapse in front of their net and block shots almost as good as us. Use their speed to challenge our point men forcing turn overs and resulting in breakaways.
    4. Sid,Geno, Phil were not a factor last night. They keep doing the same thing every shift. It is not working. Somebody has to get his hands dirty and do the tough stuff in front of Rinne. Effort does not equal execution.
    5. We are the Champions with all the experience. Last night we lost our cool in the third period.. Not a good sign. Crosby and Malkin in the penalty box at the same time. They are supposed to be our leaders. What happened ?
    6. Last night we looked like the tired Detroit Red Wings of 2009 when a bunch of young, very talented, very fast, very motivated kids and a few veterans UPSET the old guys who were the reigning Champs and the media all said the kids could NOT win the cup, but they did….Please prove me wrong in 2017.
    7. As I said before, except for an 8 minute lapse in the second period in game 2 the Pred’s have been the better team and only the play of Murray and Jake G. got us 2 wins to date.
    8. We need to be able to keep a lead when we get it..Lat night we let this game get away from us.
    9. Injuries…. We are a hurting team.
    So many thoughts in my head right now, but the Pen’s must find a way to win a game in Nashville or we are done in 6 games.
    Lets go Pen’s.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      June 4, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rick,
      With regards to Injuries… Sports tv just did a piece at supper time on the banged up Penguin d corps. They mentioned: 1. Daley and his bad knee that has limited his effectiveness. They showed video of Nashville exploiting that weakness and resulting in a goal last game. 2. Justin Schultz and his a shoulder injury that affects his ability to shoot the puck and play effective defense along the boards. 3. Brian Dumo. and his injuries and how Nashville went after him last night as well that caused a goal to be scored.
      4. Olli Maatta and his ankle or leg injury.Not being 100% healthy and having difficulties in skating with the speedy Nashville forwards.
      With this weak and depleted d corps they mentioned that our big three star forwards have to score and score a lot. The forwards need to keep the puck in the Pred’s end as much as possible to rest the defense.
      The Sports TV also said we can not count on the Pen’s d corps because they have such serious injuries. The Pen’s are trying to cover them up.
      That is why as the game goes on and they are forced to block shots and play heavy defense along the boards, then the Preds get stronger..
      This is not going to change. The Pen’s d corps is suffering and the reason that the Preds forwards started to score in game 3 was that the Pen’s d corps were worn down do to injury !!
      The Pen’s need a win tomorrow night with as short a series as possible because the longer this series goes the more the advantage switches to the younger and healthier Preds.
      They showed video clips of our games in last years Cup final and how the d corps was beating the Sharks to almost every puck. This year they are not. 2 different teams Rick !
      Let’s Go Pen’s….

      * Matt we need you to steal another one for us tomorrow night !!

      • June 4, 2017 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        The Pens need to sit Daley & play Streit. Cole was the most messed up and confused last game that I have ever seen him on defense. I really can’t remember that many break aways against the Pens this post season. Daley’s lack of speed is killing the Pens and Shultz not being able to shoot is killing the powerplay. Streit could proverbially kill both of those birds with one stone.

        If they don’t sit Daley, they should put Maatta back on his line. I really think Maatta is the only one that can cover for him. Basically minimizing the damage and also the reason I consider Maatta the best Penguins defenseman this post season. (If Shultz was healthy, he’s be a shoe in for best D)

        I realize Daley is up for a contract next season, I’m worried he is putting his own interests above the teams by breaking in at random times trying to get big goals knowing full well he can’t cover back.

    • June 4, 2017 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim lot’s of stuff to digest there that’s for sure. I do think the Pens have put in complete games. Game 7 against the Capitals comes to mind, but I get you point. they are few & far between. One thing we have seen is a bunch of ugly Pens games that were so bad we thought they were done for for the series. They have bounced back and are here in the finals.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        June 5, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        I agree about their ability to bounce back. The Pen’s showed it in the Columbus series, most definitely in the Washington series and again in Ottawa. So being a Pen’s fan I have to believe that tonight we will find away to win game 5. We will. We have to !
        But one nagging fact still bothers me Phil. Because of my geographical location and to some extent my family members who live In Ottawa, almost all of us including the informed media sources thought that Ottawa would be lucky to win 1 game against the mighty Penguins. Montreal,Toronto,Boston were all giving Ottawa difficult times late in the regular season. With serious injuries to about 4 of their key players there was no way Ottawa would take us to 7 games. Not possible everyone said, accept the NHL sponsored Media trying to hype the games.. But they did.!!
        My sister said to me something that has bothered me a lot. She said ” Ottawa was not that great a team this year, it was just that Pittsburgh were not that good. They were much better last year in the playoffs. They have 95 % percent the same team as last year. What is wrong ?… They have to be hurting.”
        So Phil I ask you a really dumb question ..Could this years 2017 Penguins,as they are right now, beat last years 2016 Cup Champions and why ?
        I remember Denis Potvin,who used to be a radio man for Ottawa said that when the Oiler’s beat them to win the Cup for the first time that the Islanders were to beat up to defend the cup.To many injuries. Phil, he was saying that in a reflective manner and not using that as an excuse for them losing. Injuries are part of the game and everyone has to face it, but they do affect the outcome.
        You mention Streit as a replacement for Daley and I agree. How about dressing 7 d men, double shifting Sid and put Derrick Pouliot to
        just quarterback the power play? He can carry and shoot the puck on the PP…. Anything other than that he can not do to much because of his defensive liabilities.My problem is I have not seen him play in such a long time he may not fit our needs now.
        I will be interested to read your comments about 2017 verses 2016 .
        Others too.

        Jim

        • June 5, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          Jim,

          The Ottawa series went seven games only because the refs didn’t call any penalties. I have no doubt in my mind about that.

          I’m going to divide my 2016/2017 answer in two.

          Pittsburgh’s offense is much better than last years. Basically we swapped Guentzel for Fehr and added a year of NHL experience to the WBS speedy crew that has come up and play different positions mostly on the 3rd and 4th lines. Offense this year beats last years offense. The only thing holding back this years offense over last years offense is the Penguins defense.

          So…..

          The defense is way worse and yes it is mostly because of health. The only character changes that were made on defense this year is the Lovejoy/Hainsey swap. Hainsey was a stopgap measure that has had to be used all playoffs.

          When you throw in the health of the defense, you lost Letang who played almost 1/4 of all of the defense last playoffs and he has been replaced by Daley who had knee surgery 3 months ago. Plus, you have Shultz who in my opinion would be a fine or better fill in for Letang on the powerplay if he could shoot.

          Right now Maatta is leading the Penguins in even strength goals and Cole with no goals is leading them in overall even strength points. That is crazy.

          Daley, the guy who keeps breaking in and stranding his defensive partner has 1 even strength assist in 18 games. If your keeping track at home, that’s the exact same number of even strength assists Streit has in the 3 games he has played.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            June 5, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            Thanks Phil for the informed comments.
            Great analysis .
            Also agree with your comments on the refs.
            That is one thing that Sullivan did when he took over the team was stop arguing with the refs.
            A few years back Sid and Geno liked to yap it up with the refs. Others Pens did to.
            As all great coaches do, Sullivan imposed his will onto his team and it shows. He stopped the complaining and said Just play the game guys. They are a better team for it.
            thanks..

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 5, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Outstanding observations and comments. I pretty much agree with everything you wrote.

      Regarding point number 4, it seems that when we struggle, we try everything BUT making the simple play and taking the puck to the net. I think the mark of a tired hockey team…again trying to go around an obstacle rather than through it.

      Phil made a good point…we seem to do a better job of getting bodies to the net when the defense gets involved in the offense. We got eight shots on goal from our ‘d’ in Game Three–the same as we had in Game Two. But we seemed to be back on our heels a lot more, too.

      As Phil mentioned, Laviolette was able to get the matchups he wanted and I think it showed.

      The inability to play a full 60-minute game is a definitely concern…especially against a young, hungry foe that’s going to keep coming. So is the beat up state of our defense.

      I know we were all dreaming of a quick finish, but it looks like we’ve got a fight on our hands. Let’s hope we can turn things around in Game Four.

      Rick

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        June 5, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        Hi Rick,
        We need this win tonight. One of the key marks of the Pens since Sully took over was their ability to play with consistency. If they had a bad game or two they always bounced back.
        I hope we get Bonino back as well because he makes our PK better.
        How is your writing endeavors ?
        You have certainly lots of drama and content this year .
        Cheers

  3. June 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I can look back on just about every game that the Penguins have lost this playoff season an say the refs had a hand in their loss. The non calls on cheap plays in the Columbus/Washington/Ottawa or the constant holding clutching & grabbing that went unseen, mostly referees that tried to control the Penguins destiny.

    Last night the Penguins lost the game on their own, Nashville was the better team. Laviolette had the last change and won the game on matchups. The Penguins lost the game on special teams. I will say the exact same thing I said in the Ottawa series, the defensemen need to shoot the puck to open it up in front of the net.

    Even though I believe the defensive lapses were mainly to fault last night, it will be interesting to see how Sully handles Murray. I would be extremely surprised if Murray doesn’t get the start, but he is probably on the shortest leash he’s ever been on, if only because of Fleury’s incredible play the first two series.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      June 4, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      Funny you should mention our goalies. I was thinking pretty much the exact same thing on my way to church this morning.

      I think Sullivan will come back with Murray in Game Four. However, if Muzz and the team author a repeat performance of Game Three, I’d fully expect to see Fleury in net for Game Five.

      Part of the reason Sully made the switch from Fleury to Murray? The team was trending in the wrong direction and he needed to do something to get the Pens to refocus.

      If they lose Game Four and Murray has another rough outing, I think he’ll make the reverse switch for the same underlying reason.

      Rick

      PS–Agree 100 percent with your observations about the defense needing to be involved in the offense. It makes all the difference in terms of getting pucks and bodies to the net.


            

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