Pittsburgh's magic number is now one. A flurry of goals Thursday gave the Penguins a 6-0 win against the visiting Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Penguins needed just 91 seconds to get on the scoreboard. A quick game of hot potato broke out between Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist before the puck found its way onto Justin Schultz's stick near the blue line, where Schultz blasted a slap shot past Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne for the power-play goal and a 1-0 advantage. The goal was Schultz's third while Pittsburgh's been on the power play this postseason, giving him the lead for defensemen.
Pittsburgh extended it's lead 5:12 later courtesy of a backhander from Bryan Rust. Evgeni Malkin made it 3-0 just before the end of the first period at 19:49 with a slapper from the left face-off circle.
The first-period goals chased Rinne from Nashville's net; however, backup Juuse Saros ended up not faring any better.
Conor Sheary gave Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead 1:19 into the second period. Jake Guentzel was awarded the secondary assist on the goal, giving him 21 points this postseason and tying him for first all-time with Dino Ciccarelli (1981) and Ville Leino (2010) in rookie playoff points.
A three-on-two Penguins rush broke out near the halfway point of the middle stanza. Moments later, Pittsburgh had it's fifth goal of the night. Olli Maatta skated the puck up the ice along the right boards before sending a cross-ice pass to Phil Kessel. Kessel had all the time and space in the world as he maneuvered into the high slot and rifled a shot past Saros at 8:02. Ron Hainsey's goal with 3:20 left in the second frame extended Pittsburgh's lead to 6-0.
Matt Murray stopped all 24 shots he faced Thursday to earn the shutout. He's now 13-2 all-time at home in the playoffs, including 5-0 this postseason. Rinne made six saves on nine shots in 20 minutes of ice time before ceding the crease to Saros, who stopped 12 out of 15 shots.
The Stanley Cup Final returns to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday. A win there gives Pittsburgh a second Cup in as many years. If that happens, the Penguins will become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings won the Cup in 1997 and then in 1998.
Highlight of the Night
Malkin threads the needle, setting up Hainsey for Pittsburgh's sixth and final goal of the night Thursday.
Stat of the Night
Thursday was a good night for Crosby. How good? Well, he rewrote record books multiple times in Game 5. His three assists on the night gave him 20 career Cup Final points, the most in Pittsburgh's franchise history. Those three helpers also gave him 107 career playoff assists, good for a 20th-place tie all-time with Peter Forsberg. Wait—there's more: Take Crosby's 107 career playoff assists and couple them with his 57 career playoff goals, and you get him moving into a tie with Denis Potvin (56g-108a-164pts) for 19th in NHL history for playoff points.
Quote of the Night
The Crosby-P.K. Subban feud story added another chapter in the first period in a leg-grabbing, head-slamming tussle behind the net, for which both players got matching holding minors.
3. Phil Kessel (PIT) Kessel recorded a goal and two assists in the Penguins' Game 5 win.
2. Matt Murray (PIT) Murray earned his second shutout of the 2017 playoffs Thursday and the third of his postseason career.
1. Sidney Crosby (PIT) Crosby had three assists in a record-setting night Thursday for the 29-year-old center.