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Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
NASHVILLE — As 58-plus minutes ticked by in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final without a goal, Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist changed nothing about his style of play.
“You just play the right way,” he said. “One bounce can change the whole game.”
And so it did for Hornqvist and the now back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
The former Nashville Predator scored at 18:25 of the third period to snap a scoreless tie and lead Pittsburgh to a 2-0 win at raucous Bridgestone Arena, giving the Penguins a 4-2 series win over the Predators.
In becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Cup champs, the Penguins did it with excellent defense and the occasional dollop of luck every title team needs.
Center Sidney Crosby, who scored eight goals and dished out 19 assists in 24 playoff games, was named Conn Smythe Trophy winner as postseason most valuable player for the second straight year.
Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray stopped 27 shots for his second shutout in as many games and the fourth of his career in the postseason. He was brilliant during a 3:28 stretch of power play time by Nashville midway through the third period, coming up with four stops.
And the one time Murray couldn’t stop a puck from entering the net, the quick whistle of referee Kevin Pollock prevented the goal for him.
Early in the second period, center Colton Sissons appeared to put the Predators on the board by poking in a loose puck from the crease. However, Pollock, working in his second Cup final, lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle.
That nullified the goal and sent the sellout crowd, which by one unofficial count chucked eight catfish on the ice during the evening, into a frenzy.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate, but what are you going to do? It just (stinks) that we’re on the losing side of it,” Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said.
It wasn’t that the Predators lacked for chances beyond the disallowed marker. Murray stoned Sissons on a breakaway later in the period, and he also denied Craig Smith on a breakaway.
After Nashville misfired on its extended power play time, it nearly scored with about six minutes left. Subban teed up Sissons for a wrister in the right faceoff circle that beat Murray to the glove side but clanged off the right post.
As the clock slipped under two minutes, the first overtime period of the series looked like a good possibility. Then Pittsburgh, as it often does, struck with a quick counterattack.
On the tiebreaking tally, Justin Schultz’s shot was wide but Hornqvist, known for his willingness to score tough goals while withstanding heavy contact, got to the puck at the goal line. From just behind the right post, he banked the puck in off of goaltender Pekka Rinne for his fifth playoff marker.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette challenged the play for goalie interference, but the goal stood after a short review.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better for me,” Hornqvist said. “The last minute or so on the bench was very emotional for me.”
Carl Hagelin sealed it with an empty-netter at 19:46, his second of the playoffs. Nashville fans, already sullen at the disallowed goal and the prospect of the Penguins celebrating on their ice, erupted in a shower of towel- and shirt-throwing disgust.
Moments later, Pittsburgh players were firing gloves and helmets toward the ceiling, celebrating a hard-earned Cup. They played 25 of a possible 28 games, surviving Game 7s with the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators before fending off the Predators in a series that mostly lived up to expectations in spite of largely lopsided final scores.
“We went through a lot of adversity and we were able to overcome each challenge thrown our way,” Murray said. “It says a lot to the character of this team that we were able to compete, no matter what bad stuff happened.”
Rinne saved 27 of 28 shots but lost for just the second time in 11 postseason home games.
“It’s a tough feeling to watch their dream come true when you were so close to it yourself,” Nashville forward Filip Forsberg said.
NOTES: Pittsburgh’s 5-0 road record with a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup is the best record in NHL history in that situation. Only Montreal has won more Cups on the road with 10. … Nashville D Ryan Ellis, who sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period of Game 5, was back in uniform and in the starting lineup for Game 6. … Notable scratches for the Penguins were D Mark Streit, D Chad Ruhwedel and C Nick Bonino. … Notable Predators scratches were RW PA Parenteau, LW Harry Zolnierczyk and LW Vernon Fiddler.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
NASHVILLE – The Pittsburgh Penguins are poised to make history, bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98. The Penguins will go for the clincher when they visit the Nashville Predators on Sunday night in Game 6 of a best-of-seven series that has been defined by home dominance.
Captain Sidney Crosby and Co. moved within one win of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the third time in nine seasons by demolishing the Predators 6-0 in Game 5, but Pittsburgh has been outscored 9-2 in dropping both matchups at Bridgestone Arena. “Still a lot of work to be done,” Crosby acknowledged. “We know we’re going to face a desperate team. We’ve already played two games there and know the atmosphere and know how much they feed off their fans. We’ve still got a lot of work to do there.” So do the Predators, who rebounded from a pair of drubbings to win Games 3 and 4 and must hold serve again in Smashville, where they are 9-1 during the postseason. ” … What happened in Game 5 is gone. We know what we need to do in Game 6,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We know how we’re capable of playing, especially in our building here and look to get ourselves a big win.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVAS
ABOUT THE PENGUINS: Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy a year ago in leading Pittsburgh to the Cup and is lifting his game when it matters most, collecting three assists in Game 5 to give him seven points in the series and 27 in the postseason — one behind teammate Evgeni Malkin. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been around an athlete — not just a hockey player but an athlete — that is as driven as Sid is,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He sees the opportunity in front of us, and he’s doing everything within his power to try to help us be successful.” Malkin, the 2009 Conn Smythe winner, is in position to win it twice with a goal and an assist in Game 5 to boost his playoff-leading total.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS: Veteran netminder Pekka Rinne was yanked for the second time in the series after allowing three goals on nine shots in Game 5 but, like his team, has been superb at Bridgestone Arena, turning aside 50 of 52 shots in Games 3 and 4. “I’m worried about his record now at home, and it’s been outstanding,” Predators captain Mike Fisher said of Rinne. “We gotta focus on that game. We gotta be better for our goaltender, no question. You look at the shots, and they’re even, but it’s scoring chances, quality chances. That’s not our goaltender’s fault.” Center Colton Sissons was cleared to play after receiving a match penalty in Game 5, but has registered only one assist in the past four games.
1. Predators D Ryan Ellis left Game 5 because of an undisclosed injury and did not skate at Saturday’s optional practice.
2. The Penguins have won all four of their Stanley Cups on the road, including Game 6 at San Jose a year ago.
3. Nashville closed out series against St. Louis and Anaheim with Game 6 victories at Bridgestone Arena.
PREDICTION: Penguins 4, Predators 2
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH — There were calls — all from outside the Pittsburgh Penguins organization — to switch starting goaltenders for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins would have none of it. Matt Murray was back in net.
He not only avoided losing three straight games for the first time in his career, he also stopped 24 shots for his second shutout of these playoffs, third in the postseason in his career. And he got plenty of goal support in Pittsburgh’s 6-0 win over the Nashville Predators.
“Of course I want to win every game,” said Murray, who gave up eight goals in two losses in Nashville. “Sure you want a good bounce-back game after a bad one.”
Pittsburgh scored early, often and seemingly at will to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, leaving it a win away from raising the Cup for the second year in a row and fifth time in team history.
Game 6 is Sunday night in Nashville. The home team has won each game in the series.
The Penguins, who set a club record with their 10th home win of the playoffs, scored three times in the first and again in the second.
They got goals from Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel and Ron Hainsey. Kessel added two assists, Malkin and Hainsey one each. Sidney Crosby, who was particularly strong early in the game, had three assists.
That was on the heels of getting just one goal in each of the two previous games, in Nashville.
“We know how to hit the reset button. We know how to move on,” Rust said. “Not being able to get those goals in Nashville in the last couple of games, I don’t think it fazed us. We made a few adjustments, but we had confidence.”
For the second time in the series, Pittsburgh chased Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, after he gave up three first-period goals on nine shots. Rinne has allowed 11 goals on 45 shots this series at PPG Paints Arena and is 0-3 in those games.
“Feeling good,” Rinne said. “Obviously disappointed with the game. That was a huge game. I came here well-prepared, and we didn’t have it tonight.
“But I think as a team we have to feel confident playing at home, having that opportunity to play Game 6 at home.”
The extra day between games will give the Predators a chance to move on from the lopsided loss before going home and facing an elimination game.
“I don’t know if anybody shakes off a game like that that quickly,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Nobody feels good leaving the building playing the way we did.”
The opening faceoff was delayed a few seconds after someone threw a catfish onto the ice — a Predators thing. If that was meant to bait the Penguins, it backfired.
On the game’s first shift, Crosby wove down the slot, putting a shot off the left post and drawing a holding penalty on Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis.
On the ensuing power play, Crosby set up Schultz for a slap shot that went under Rinne’s pads for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead 1:31 into the first.
The Penguins’ power play had been 1-for-16 in the series and 0-for-13 over the previous three games.
“That power play got us going,” Sheary said.
Pittsburgh kept up the pressure and Chris Kunitz set up Rust for a backhander that sailed past Rinne’s glove to make it 2-0 at 6:43.
Crosby and Nashville’s P.K. Subban got in a tangle on the ice behind the Penguins’ net late in the first, with Crosby bouncing Subban’s helmeted head off the ice as he tried to free his stick. Both got holding penalties.
“I’m not an official so I’m not going to judge what’s over the line and what’s not,” Subban said.
Crosby had this account: “He lost his stick, and he was doing some UFC move on my foot. I don’t know what he was trying to do. I was trying to get out of there. He had lost his stick. He was trying to hold me down. I don’t know what he was trying to do to my ankle. I was in some kind of lock he had going on there. I don’t know what it was.”
Laviolette wanted something stiffer against Crosby.
“I don’t understand the call,” he said. “I really don’t understand the call. I saw my guy get his head cross-checked 10 times.”
On the ensuing four-on-four play, Malkin took a feed from Kessel and, from above the left dot, put a shot in over Rinne’s glove to make it 3-0 with 10.2 seconds left in the first.
It was Malkin’s 10th goal of the playoffs and his postseason-leading 27th point.
“It wasn’t good,” Laviolette said of his team’s start. “It’s not the first period that we’re looking for, and it really didn’t get much better after that. Definitely things we could have done better defensively.”
Juuse Saros replaced Rinne for the start of the second and promptly got scored upon. Crosby set up Sheary — playing on his 25th birthday — in the low slot for a 4-0 Pittsburgh lead at 1:19 on the first shot by either team in the period.
Kessel broke a six-game goal drought — and made Malkin’s prediction Wednesday come true — when he scored from the high slot to make it 5-0 at 8:02 of the second.
Hainsey turned Nashville’s James Neal inside-out in Pittsburgh’s end after the former Penguin whiffed on a big-hit attempt, then headed up ice and eventually finished off a feed from Malkin for a 6-0 lead at 16:40 of the second.
“That was awesome,” Schultz said of Hainsey’s second career playoff goal. “He’s got some skill and he showed it off there.”
NOTES: Nashville D Ryan Ellis left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. … Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby reached 20 career points in Stanley Cup Final games, moving one ahead of Mario Lemieux for the club record. … Pittsburgh LW Jake Guentzel’s second-period secondary assist gave him 21 points, setting an NHL record for rookies. … Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino missed his third straight game. He took a P.K. Subban shot off his left foot/ankle in Game 2. … Penguins RW Josh Archibald, who made his Final debut in Game 4, was scratched in favor of LW Scott Wilson. … Nashville LW Colin Wilson returned from an undisclosed injury and made his Final debut. He replaced RW P.A. Parenteau in the lineup.
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins’ high-octane offense looks to get back on track in Thursday’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the visiting Nashville Predators after being stuck in neutral for the previous two contests in the Music City. Captain Sidney Crosby ended his Stanley Cup Final drought of 12 games without a goal by tallying in Monday’s 4-1 setback, but Pittsburgh was outscored 9-2 in Games 3 and 4 to see the best-of-seven series knotted at 2-2.
“We’re confident our team will respond the right way, as they always have all season long,” coach Mike Sullivan said of the Penguins, who have seen Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust mired in respective six-game goal droughts while former Predator Patric Hornqvist has failed to tally in his last five. “I believe we have great leadership in our room. We’ve got good players. They understand the circumstances and we’ve felt as though, with each game that we’ve played here, our team game is getting stronger.” Nashville’s Frederick Gaudreau continued his brilliant series by scoring the decisive goal for the second straight contest, joining fellow rookie Jake Guentzel of Pittsburgh by accounting for all four-game winning goals in the Stanley Cup Final. “(Gaudreau’s) been unbelievable for us, just the way he’s come in and he’s been so good with the timely goals and so composed,” Predators captain Mike Fisher said of the 24-year-old, who had one assist in nine regular-season NHL games in his career.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVAS
ABOUT THE PREDATORS: Franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne silenced critics by turning aside 50 of 52 shots in his last two games to improve to 9-1 at home in the postseason, but his play in Pittsburgh leaves plenty to be desired. The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist has yielded at least four goals in each contest en route to losing all five of his career decisions in the Steel City, including eight tallies on 36 shots collectively in Games 1 and 2. Rinne’s defense has been up to the task in the last two contests, but P.K. Subban’s availability for Game 5 could be in question as the blue-liner was not on the ice to begin practice Wednesday after blocking Evgeni Malkin’s shot late the third period in Game 4.
ABOUT THE PENGUINS: In a move that parallels that of Nashville coach Peter Laviolette prior to Game 3, Sullivan refused to reveal the identity of his starting netminder for Game 5 after Matt Murray yielded eight goals on 58 shots in the last two contests. For his part, the 23-year-old Murray admitted he wouldn’t spill the beans even if he was in on the secret, telling the team’s website Wednesday that “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.” Murray has posted a 5-3 mark with a 2.08 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in the past nine games after missing the first two rounds of the playoffs because of a lower-body injury, with veteran Marc-Andre Fleury recording a 9-6 mark with a 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage.
1. The team that has won Game 5 after a split of the first four contests of the Final has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 17 of 24 times since the series went to the best-of-seven format in 1939.
2. Nashville C Filip Forsberg (team-leading 16 points) dented the scoresheet for the first time in the Stanley Cup Final with his club-best ninth goal Monday.
3. Pittsburgh needs to find a way to ignite its sputtering power play, which is 1-for-16 in the first four contests of the Stanley Cup Final – with its lone tally coming on a 5-on-3 advantage in Game 1.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
NASHVILLE — Rookie Frederick Gaudreau has no problem performing on hockey’s biggest stage. The Nashville Predators’ 23-year-old undrafted center had not scored an NHL goal before the start of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Gaudreau scored his second straight game-winning goal — and third goal of the Final — on Monday to pace the Predators to a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4.
Nashville won its second consecutive game to send the best-of-seven series back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2. Game 5 is on Thursday.
“He’s been unbelievable for us, just the way he’s come in and he’s been so good with the timely goals and so composed,” Predators captain Mike Fisher said of Gaudreau, who has played just nine career regular-season NHL games. “He definitely belongs, and he’s been a huge part of our success. It’s good to see for sure.”
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins were outshot for the fourth straight game, but Pittsburgh was outscored 9-2 in the two losses at Bridgestone Arena.
“Well, obviously it’s hard to win when you score one goal,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought tonight, of all the games, we generated the most chances and the highest quality. It didn’t go in the net for us. We had a number of grade-A opportunities — a couple of breakaways, flurries around the net.”
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was spectacular in the victory, making a handful of close-range saves among his 23 stops. He and the Predators improved to 9-1 at home in the postseason.
Rinne had come under plenty of scrutiny after sub-par performances in Games 1 and 2, when the veteran netminder allowed eight goals on 36 shots.
“You always have ups and downs, and you try to stay even-keeled,” Rinne said. “I’m sure at the end of the day when you look back, (the season) is a roller coaster. It’s an emotional ride. It’s no different in these Finals.”
The Predators scored twice in the second period, taking a 3-1 lead on goals by Gaudreau and Viktor Arvidsson.
Gaudreau’s tally came 3:45 into the period on a wraparound, but there was no goal signal on the ice at the time.
The NHL stopped play shortly thereafter, awarding Gaudreau the score after a review clearly showed the puck crossed the line.
Gaudreau didn’t score a goal during the regular season this year.
Rinne made a tremendous diving save midway through the second period to keep the score 2-1, foiling Jake Guentzel by knocking the puck out of the crease just before it crossed the goal line.
“Somehow he managed to keep it out,” said Guentzel, who scored four goals in the series’ first three games. “I had how many chances, just myself. I’ve got to put one of those away.”
Arvidsson doubled the Predators’ lead with 6:52 left in the second period, scoring on a breakaway after Fisher’s diving pass in neutral ice sent him in alone. It was the first goal for Arvidsson since Game 4 of the first playoff round, and it put Nashville up 3-1.
Filip Forsberg’s empty-net goal at 16:37 of the third period completed the scoring.
The Predators had jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 5:09 left in the first period when center Calle Jarnkrok knocked home a rebound as he went sailing into the crease. Matt Murray (22 saves) had stopped Craig Smith’s initial deflection of Austin Watson’s shot, but Jarnkrok’s follow gave him five points — one goal and four assists — in the past five games.
Minutes later, just as the Nashville crowd was getting revved up — giving the team its first standing ovation of the contest — the Penguins struck back.
Sidney Crosby, who was held without a shot on goal in Game 2, jumped on a loose puck and cruised in on a breakaway. He deked Rinne, then slid a backhand shot that tapped the post before settling behind the goalie at 15:57.
NOTES: The Predators used the same lineup as they did in Game 2, scratching LW Cody McLeod as well as C Vern Fiddler … Nashville’s four centers — Frederick Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok, Mike Fisher and Colton Sissons — have 13 points in the four Final games … Dierks Bentley became the latest in a long line of star musicians to sing the national anthem at a Predators home playoff game … The Penguins made one change to their lineup, as RW Josh Archibald replaced C Scott Wilson … Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino missed his second consecutive contest with a foot injury … Penguins C Sidney Crosby now has 17 career points in Cup Final games, two behind franchise leader Mario Lemieux.