Predators on brink as Rinne struggles again in Pittsburgh

Colton Sissons
Colton Sissons
Author

10 June, 2017

No matter what happens in the end, this has been a magic run for the Nashville Predators and it's a testament to the skill of their GM David Poile for putting together such a powerful group and to coach Peter Laviolette for getting the most out of them.

The Predators are hardly blaming Rinne for their predicament. In addition to his three points, Crosby broke between two Nashville defensemen on the opening shift of the game and fired a shot on Rinne. Desperation should probably still fall on our side here where we know we've got to win a game in Pittsburgh. Crosby is the best player in the game and they have him on their team, everything short of actually maiming a guy on the ice will be justifiable in a quest to win the Cup. If you look at the goals and the way they were scored, we gave up a power play early on, the next two we need better coverage, there's things we can do better in front of him. Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky are the only players to captain back-to-back Cup winners in the last three decades - an esteemed group Crosby would join with one more win in Nashville on Sunday night. "We know how good he can be". They may be going home, but they are all in an unfamiliar position with very little positives to pull from Game 5. The teams that lost those games came back to win their next matches. The team directed fans to watch the pivotal game in the 2-2 series on screens outside.

The defending champions provided an emphatic and repeated reminder of what makes them such a hard out in a 6-0 demolition of the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to take a 3-2 lead.

Pens goaltender Matt Murray recovered from his tough time in Nashville to make 24 stops in the shutout. After combining for zero points in Games 3 and 4, Malkin had a goal and an assist and Kessel a goal and two assists.

Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel - just as linemate Malkin predicted - and 35-year-old playoff newbie Ron Hainsey also scored for Pittsburgh. "It's a big game, we came here with the mission to win the game and we didn't have the start or the game we wanted to". We thought we played a real competitive game in Game 2.

Now, with a series lead up for grabs, the question is which Rinne shows up. The shot total was tied at nine, but the Penguins converted three of those to complete their best period in three games.

The home team has won each of the first five games of the Final for just the 12th time since the National Hockey League went to a best-of-seven series in the final round in 1939, and for the first time since 2011.

The Ducks, meanwhile, won a rugged Game Seven against Edmonton and then had to host the Predators in Game One just two days later.

It was as bad a start as you could have expected.

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"It was just one of those games where they were going and we were trying to find it and didn't really get it going at any point", Rinne said.

The individual matchup between P.K. Subban and Sidney Crosby has been one of the compelling and entertaining subplots of this year's Stanley Cup Final.

Rinne insisted his confidence isn't shaken though he was disappointed with Thursday's result.

"Sometimes just every game tends to take on its own identity", he said. He's as hungry as I've seen a player, and I just think he understands it. Subban has his arms wrapped around Crosby's leg-Crosby does try to get up but Subban's not having it.

When Hainsey, who waited 907 regular-season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time this season, tapped in a pass from Malkin to make it 6-0, the stage was set for the Penguins to return to familiar territory.

Rinne allowed three first-period goals in a span of 4:11 in Game 1. 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.

Evgeni Malkin scored with 10.2 seconds left, another three-goal period for Pittsburgh at home after doing so in Game 1.

"I thought I was OK in Game 3, obviously not great, but I thought I was pretty good in Game 4", Murray said after practice on Wednesday. But if the pattern holds, the Preds should bounce back with a much better effort in Game 6.


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