Game 1 for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. Winner takes the Stanley Cup.
The Pens are scratching Carl Hagelin and previously injured Patric Hornqvist is back, otherwise lines are the same as when they ended from last game.
Let's do this. pic.twitter.com/srDmac33SP— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
The first wrinkle in the series comes when Mike Sullivan starts double-shifting Sidney Crosby from the first available time with the "fourth" line wingers of Guentzel/Hornqvist whenever Nashville puts out their 3rd pair defense. And that "fourth" line is basically a 1st line with Crosby out there centering it.
Nashville appears to score first when Ron Hainsey turns the puck over in his defensive zone and Filip Forsberg finds P.K. Subban who skates in and shoots past Matt Murray.
PK Subban with the snipe. pic.twitter.com/tOTWXxkrjF— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) May 30, 2017
--But wait, Pens video coach Andy Saucier almost always is undefeated in the playoffs and he signals almost instantly to Sullivan to challenge the play. Upon review Forsberg was off-side on the initial zone-entry, which we here always speak out against calls like these that remove goals despite having little to do with the goal and being a split-second call anyways.
A closer look.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
Still 0-0. pic.twitter.com/6pPnt0E0R3
Then in the last 4:28 of the period the Pens score 3 straight goals. The first comes on a 5v3 power play, thanks to (stop me if you've heard this before) James Neal doing something totally unnecessary and dumb by following Trevor Daley around the ice and blatantly cross-checking him for no reason while there was a delayed penalty waiting to be called. Players sometime think they have a license to do whatever when the refs are already calling a penalty on their team, but no one can get away with being this dumb.
Daley dodges Neal's hit, then Neal crosschecks Daley and picks up a penalty. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/mqAbOSfQ3Z— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) May 30, 2017
Anyways, Sidney Crosby gets lucky to get away with a reverse check to knock down a NSH defender in a continuation of the play and passes back to Daley. Daley drops for Evgeni Malkin who hammers a puck. Pekka Rinne has a clear line of sight but it goes past his glove. 1-0 an this counts.
Malkin absolutely hammers one past Rinne pic.twitter.com/kA7EoX8aio— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
The Pens make it 2-0, Crosby passes to Chris Kunitz and the vet makes a sensational cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary for his first goal in almost 2 months to make the score 2-0.
Conor Sheary tallies his first goal of the 2017 playoffs. The Stanley Cup Final seems like a good time to make that happen! pic.twitter.com/VG24YfOrM7— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
When you're livin' right, you're livin' right. Pittsburgh gets a 3rd goal of the period with Nick Bonino throwing a centering pass (to no one in particular) that Rinne punches away awkwardly and right into Viktor Eklhom who it bounces off of in and in the net. Bad luck for the defenseman who will take heat but his goalie basically played it right off him.
Ekholm own goal makes it 3-0 Pens. Awful luck pic.twitter.com/N3SQ3jkDzf— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
Wow, after being outshot early, the Subban goal reversal completely changed the tone of the game, along with Neal being dumb and making a 5v4 into a 5v3 for the Pens.
After 1 period, the Penguins look pretty much like the 2017 playoff Penguins. A little nervy, a little lucky, a little skilled, and winning.
Preds getting the edge in volume, Pens in quality.— Natural Stat Trick (@NatStatTrick) May 30, 2017
Oh, and goals. Pens definitely have the edge in goals.https://t.co/wjdzacR3tM pic.twitter.com/jrd7BwDSnm
The Pens got a couple breaks and calls in the 1st period, so who would you think gets a couple of power plays in the 2nd? Tale as old as time, and naturally so. The Preds cash in on a power play with Ryan Ellis blasting a shot by Murray, aided by a nice screen by Viktor Arvidsson. 3-1 about halfway through the period and Pittsburgh doesn't even have a 2nd period SOG to this point.
Ryan Ellis gets the Predators on the board. Great screen by Arvidsson pic.twitter.com/HbNXYPjixH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
Play continues, Nashville generally controls it and the Pens get 0 shots on goal in the period. In reality, after seeing Washington and Ottawa pretty much lay down and fade away while in multi-goal holes, Pittsburgh looked a little flat as if expecting Nashville not to have any pride either.
And, as mentioned below, a little embarrassing not to even get a single SOG in a period, but not really the end of the world considering the early PK's that killed momentum, plus it wasn't like Nashville (7 ES SOG) were absolutely going bonkers or anything.
The Pens take another penalty and Nashville cashes in again when again they get a forward behind the defense and in front of Murray. This time it's Colton Sissons who redirects a Roman Josi shot/pass with his knee from right in front to narrow the margin to 3-2. Pens still with no SOG since like 36 days ago.
Preds score another goal with a knee, this time on the correct net. 3-2 game pic.twitter.com/oPKlIqMIfU— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
Nashville ties it up, 4th liner Austin Watson outworks Olli Maatta, Daley and Cullen are just kind of standing there and the centering pass is true. 3-3.
Awesome work by Austin Watson down low, sets up Frederick Gaudreau’s game-tying goal pic.twitter.com/HX93DHrKY8— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 30, 2017
No shots in forever, but the Pens somehow stay patient. Matt Cullen pulls a puck off the wall away from Josi and feeds Jake Guentzel for a break. He buries it over the shoulder of Rinne for a 4-3 lead.
Yeah, that's as good as it Guentz.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
Guentzel scores his league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/ins6s6aPZU
Pittsburgh gets an empty netter to seal the deal.
That's a new angle for a goal replay... Nice one, Bones! pic.twitter.com/5YQVAXS5Lc— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
At the end of the day, they don't ask how they ask how many. 5 goals
- A lot will be made of the 37 minutes between shots. Obviously not sustainable or great. But they found a way to win and make the shots count. This time of year that's what matters. Saw they had 12 shot attempts in the 2nd period and no SOG. Other times passing up shots. Have to adjust that and gotta think they will have that drummed in their head.
- Along those lines, of the goals against, 2 were on the penalty kill, with Nashville getting forwards in between the defenders and the goalie. That's got to be an adjustment too. Have to think if they can clean that up, that's a big edge.
- Not Pittsburgh's best game, but they got away with it. They've been getting away with it all season long. And now the Preds have to outscore them in 4 out of a possible next 6 games to win. All that really matters now.