Predators on brink as Rinne struggles again in Pittsburgh

Posted June 11, 2017

The opening faceoff was delayed a few seconds after someone threw a catfish onto the ice - a Predators thing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins jumped out to an early lead with three first-period goals and defeated the Nashville Predators 6-0 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night. Like Rinne, Murray didn't play as well on the road as at home. The rest of his teammates might not have even been in the same city. But things have escalated quickly between the two players and it was evident in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. When the Penguins had just three goals during the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa last month, they scored 10 over the next two to take control. The Predators also award the best player in each game a heavy chain as a reward, a hockey version of a game ball.

If Ellis can not play, the Predators would have to rely on either Matt Irwin or Yannick Weber for more minutes.

Only three games were decided by three goals or more in the Final over the previous five years.

Then, in game four, with the teams locked at 1-1 in the second period, another unlikely source delivered the game-winning goal.

Crosby, Malkin and playoffs goals leader and Crosby linemate Jake Guentzel would seem to be the favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP if the Penguins close out the series. The 2nd period would end, but not before Ron Hainsey scored to make it 6-0. The Penguins won their two home games by a combined 9-4. By even the most objective standards, Crosby came roaring into the game and launched the Penguins toward a 6-0 win and a 3-2 series lead. With his goal, Crosby now has 161 career playoff points and moved past Mike Bossy, Gordie Howe, Al MacInnis and Bobby Smith for 20th all-time by himself.

That starts with Sidney Crosby, whose breakaway score in Game 4 was surrounded by more long stretches of blown opportunities from the Pens' attack. He was that good, that dominant, and that noticeable every time he was on the ice. Crosby kept an eye on the referee, who stood nearby but fixed his attention elsewhere. Crosby responded to the All-Star defenseman doing some "UFC move" on his right foot by trying to make Subban's face a permanent part of the ice. Crosby later told the ref he didn't mean to throw the bottle. Crosby added his third helper on Phil Kessel's first goal of the final. Crosby is looking to join Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky as the only players to captain back-to-back Cup winners in the last 30 years - and first in the salary cap era.

PITTSBURGH-The Pittsburgh Penguins will stick with Matt Murray for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.

After dropping two straight in Pittsburgh, the Predators held serve at home, and captured two lopsided victories to square the series. Much like the Predators going from Game 2 to Game 3, it's important to stay the course and not freak out.

The Penguins have again gotten to Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

As the Penguins were skating down the ice on their way to the fifth goal of Game 5, a very odd play happened. The period ended 9-9. But it likely wont be the same Rinne that the Penguins chased from the net in Game 5. After Thursday, backup Juuse Saros probably doesn't care for it much, either. Amazingly, Hainsey got into the action, scoring his first goal since the first round. They ruled Gaudreau's wraparound attempt slid the puck just over the line before Murray stopped it, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead 3:45 into the second.

Life is good for the Predators and their legions of fans that now find themselves in a best-of-three mini-series to win the Cup.

It was as if after watching the Predators for four games, the Penguins were finally able to finally figure out their opponent's weak spot.

If Ellis is unavailable, that forces major problems for Nashville's defensive depth, which is the team's biggest strength.