The Nashville Predators held serve to win Game 4 and send the series to 2 games a piece.
In the first period the Preds struck first with Calle Jarnkrok beating Carter Rowney's tie up effort to a rebound and punching it by Matt Murray.
Jarnkrok makes it 1-0 Preds pic.twitter.com/B9F4B4ixPC— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
The Pens used their challenge here on the contact in front, which wasn't really much and deemed a good goal (as it should have been). Not sure why Pittsburgh elected to use the challenge here, but so it goes.
Pittsburgh ties it up, nice pass by Brian Dumoulin to find Sidney Crosby all alone for a breakaway and Sid goes backhand to beat Pekka Rinne.
Save this GIF for when you're having a bad day. pic.twitter.com/C3ferZxqtj— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 6, 2017
The game was decided in the second period, when the Preds got some luck -- and executed -- and Pittsburgh didn't.
The Pens have a chance to take the lead, Chris Kunitz alone on a breakaway and Rinne shows him the 5-hole, then uses his stick to take enough of it away.
Soon after this sequence, Frederick Gadreau wraps in a good goal that Murray almost stops, but almost doesn't count. The refs didn't get it on the ice but upstairs they could tell it was clearly over so play was stopped and the goal was awarded.
Freddy Hockey wraparound makes it 2-1 Preds pic.twitter.com/5zLVYTAaGW— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
The Pens get a chance to tie with another Crosby breakaway but Rinne stops him on the backhand, and on the ensuing scramble Jake Guentzel has most of a net but can't poke it by.
RINNE! pic.twitter.com/9V8LB7iYhP— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
Not long after this, Mike Fisher makes a great diving pass, lifted over Justin Schultz and right to Viktor Arvidsson for a breakaway. He makes no mistake snapping a shot past Murray's glove to make it 3-1.
Great diving play by Fisher to spring Arvidsson’s breakaway goal pic.twitter.com/mZLfxiK1YO— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 6, 2017
A two goal lead is a lot to overcome deep into a game, and proved too much for the Pens. They had a couple more scoring chances, but nothing as glorious as the 2 GIF's above and Rinne was up to the task.
Mattias Ekholm got good fortune and showed good ability to score an almost 200 foot empty netter in the game's dying minutes to show what was already evident. Nashville made good on what they had, the Pens weren't able to on their end.
- For fans it feels like momentum carries over from game to game, but for players it does not. There will also be 2 days off and a venue change to further illustrate differences. Game 5 may just end like Game 4 did if the teams play the same way, but that will be a fresh contest. Something to keep in mind with a few days of hot takes.
- First time Matt Murray has lost 2 in a row in the playoffs, and that the Pens up 2 games 0 couldn't force the issue and win a game on the road. This could be looked back as a turning point to give the Preds confidence, or if the Pens can rally with a better effort at home, largely forgotten. Choose your own narrative but the future will influence it.
- Nick Bonino missed his second game in a row with his foot/ankle injury. He practiced briefly yesterday and took a small bit of the warmup before coming out, just not able to go. Even though Bonino's had a rocky year, it seems evident that twice in 2 games the guy filling his role (Rowney) has been on the defensive end of Nashville's first goal against in each game. No excuses for injuries, the Preds have them too, but just a point that a healthy Bonino's absence has been felt.
- Pittsburgh has been willing to shuffle up forward lines like crazy, but they've remained faithful to the defensemen this playoff, aside from health forcing changes. It will be interesting to see if Sullivan and Jacques Martin make a personnel change on the blueline. Ron Hainsey is struggling big time. Chad Ruhwedel might not be much (if any) better, but he would offer a right hand shot and maybe the promise of moving the puck a little better. Hopefully it will at least be considered.
- At the end of the day, luck and execution often decide playoff games. A lot of the breaks went Nashville's way. Most of them were earned. The Pens have been a very charmed team throughout the playoffs, no complaints on that. Tonight though, things didn't go their way. Reverse a couple of the scoring chances in the 2nd, and Pittsburgh could have skated out with the win. But they didn't, so they didn't. That's life.
Down to a best of 3, with next game in the Burgh is a nice position to be in. The last two games haven't been good, obviously, but there's good reason not to be defeatist just yet. The Pens will have to step up and make plays, they didn't do enough tonight. But they had the scoring opportunities, just a matter of converting them and playing a little more cleanly defensively. That last part may be tricky, and may not work out. It will or it won't but we'll see on Thursday how they can approach it and hopefully keep digging and see what happens next time out.