Forty-two seconds were all the Predators needed Saturday night to ruin the Penguins' dreams of a Stanley Cup Final sweep. In that amount of time, Nashville went from looking at a Game 3 loss to a victory, as the Predators went on to beat the Penguins 5-1.
Jake Guentzel gave the visiting Penguins an early lead. A shot from Ian Cole near the blue line didn't find the back of the net, but Guentzel was at the right spot at the right time. He collected the rebound right in front of the crease and slipped the puck in between Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne's legs for the goal 2:46 into the first period. The goal was Guentzel's 13th of the postseason and fourth of the Cup Final. He's scored in every game of the series so far, joining Dino Ciccarelli (1981) as the only two rookies to register a goal in a Cup Final's first three games since 1926-27.
The Predators erased their deficit in the second period. Roman Josi provided Nashville a power play goal courtesy of a slap shot from behind the right face-off circle at 5:51 to tie the game. Frederick Gaudreau followed with a goal of his own 42 seconds later. Gaudreau's wrist shot at 6:33 was his second goal of the postseason. He's played in five games during the 2017 playoffs after a nine-game stint with Nashville during the regular season in which he recorded just one point, coming off an assist on Nov. 29 against Colorado.
"I think he's surprising everybody with how good he is," Predators forward James Neal said about Gaudreau.
Neal then got in on the scoring himself, making it 3-1 in favor of Nashville with 23 seconds left in the middle frame. Craig Smith's unassisted goal 4:54 into the final stanza gave Nashville that much more of a cushion at 4-1. A power-play strike from Mattias Ekholm with 6:50 left capped the scoring.
For fans at Bridgestone Arena, the excitement was palpable, with a celebrity-studded crowd cheering on the home team and loudly jeering the opponents with organized chants and a whole lot of catfish tossing.
“You thought it was loud today?" Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban told media members. “It’ll be even louder in Game 4."
Recap | Box score | Highlights
Rinne made 27 stops on 28 shots in the win. His performance Saturday followed a forgettable one Wednesday when he gave up four goals on 25 shots. He's now 8-1 at home during the 2017 playoffs, and 4-0 in Game 3s. Matt Murray saved 28 shots for Pittsburgh in the loss.
Nashville will look to even the Stanley Cup Final at two apiece Monday night when the Predators host Game 4.
Highlight of the Night
Off a defender, off the net and onto Neal's stick. It's probably not how the Predators would have imagined the lead-up to Nashville's third goal, but I'm sure the team isn't complaining.
Stat of the Night
Even though the Penguins lead the series, there's legitimate cause for long-term concern. Pittsburgh hasn't scored yet during 5-on-4 opportunities. Pittsburgh's 0-for-12 in these situations this series, with the Penguins' only power play goal during the Cup Final coming on a five-on-three.
Not helping things? This marked the first Penguins playoff game in which neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin tallied a shot on goal.
P.K. Subban, dental hygiene enthusiast.
Jake Guentzel (PIT) Guentzel's goal in the first period Saturday continued his record-setting rookie campaign in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He now trails Ciccarelli (1981) and Ville Leino (2010) by one for most points by a rookie in a single playoff run.
2. Pekka Rinne (NSH) Nashville needed Rinne to bounce back following Wednesday's loss, and the netminder didn't disappoint. He made 27 saves in Game 3, including one on the penalty kill and one on the power play.
1. Roman Josi (NSH) The blueliner finished Game 3 with a goal and two assists, making him the first defenseman in the NHL to tally at least three points in a game during the Stanley Cup Final since Dustin Byfuglien did so in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks.