After losing two straight games, the Pittsburgh Penguins returned home on Thursday night for a pivotal Game 5 and they certainly made quite a statement on this night.
In the first period the Pens scored early and often on the Nashville Predators and goalie Pekka Rinne.
After a great shift by Sidney Crosby - shooting a puck off the post then being dragged down by Ryan Ellis, Pittsburgh gets a power play. There's that man Justin Schultz shooting from the point, some traffic and it gets in to make it 1-0 just 1:31 into the game.
Pittsburgh strikes again when Trevor Daley flips a puck into space and Chris Kunitz races to it and pulls up. Matt Cullen drives to the net to open up the middle of the ice and Kunitz finds Bryan Rust with plenty of space to skate in and unleash a hell of a backhand to the top corner past Rinne's glove to make it 2-0.
Beauty backhander from Rust makes it 2-0 Pens pic.twitter.com/65rtLsHFJD— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 9, 2017
Crosby and P.K. Subban get tangled up (starting ahead of the play with Subban punching Sid, mind you) and they end up felled and Crosby gets the chance to give some shots, and he does. After all series long taking abuse he gets a way to give some back. Both get penalties.
Sidney Crosby gives PK Subban the world’s worst CPR lesson pic.twitter.com/FUieqHKBHy— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 9, 2017
(Subban would get up and wrestle and hold Sid for the "Pens get all the calls crowd", in context and not a GIF it's a valid 4v4).
Before Nashville can get out of this period down 2 goals to lick their wounds in the lockerroom, at the 4v4 play from the penalties above, who else but Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin team up to make them pay with just 11 seconds left in the first stanza.
The Preds put Juuse Saros in at the beginning of the second period after Rinne surrendered those 3 goals on 9 shots.
If Nashville thought they could cling to life or find a spark, that was extinguished quickly 1:19 into the 2nd period, Crosby makes a beautiful pass for Conor Sheary for his second goal of the playoffs (and series) to make it 4-zippy Pittsburgh.
We have a feeling a birthday wish just came true... pic.twitter.com/f4NuPbklPR— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 9, 2017
Seven minutes later it's Kessel's turn. Olli Maatta gets a nice zone-entry and with Scott Wilson driving to the net to open up the middle (notice a trend?) Kessel has plenty of room to wheel to the center of the ice and snipe a shot on Saros to make it 5-0.
Kessel snipes, 5-0 Pens pic.twitter.com/xlZn8BNf5x— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 9, 2017
It's all over but the cryin and boy would the Preds do some of that.
First though, the Penguins give them a little more medicine, Evgeni Malkin nutmegs Subban with a pass to....Ron Hainsey??? Yes, to Ron Hainsey . And Hainsey finishes a tap-in to make it 6-0 in the 2nd period.
A goal, an assist, and a huge hit. That's a Hainsey hat trick. pic.twitter.com/ns3PbdrH7l— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 9, 2017
As if this goal couldn't be any more enjoyable, it is. In the start of the play, Hainsey dodges a James Neal hit and he takes out a Preds teammate (lol) to start the whole event.
RON HAINSEY THA GAWD pic.twitter.com/0rcii41FJI— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 9, 2017
It's an easy goal when up this big, but it's also easy because just look at how simple Kessel and Geno make it look. This blog editor, you the dear reader, or the proverbial fire hydrant that could score 30 goals in a season with 1980's Mario Lemieux could have finished this one off.
Look at this gorgeous piece of art pic.twitter.com/aDaDXX8huM— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 9, 2017
Late in the game, NashviLLLe goons it up, Austin Watson takes a run at Schultz, a guy tries to high-stick Maatta's nose off, and on and on, typical blown out behavior.
Pittsburgh wins, resoundingly, on home ice to go up 3 games to 2. Next game on Sunday night in Nashville.
- Ryan Ellis left in the 2nd period after coming off the ice gingerly. The game was a blowout by then, no reason to play him but he was in major discomfort. He gets 2 days off to rest and get a little better, but if he's less than 100% that's a huge blow to the depth of the superior Nashville defense.
- Outside of a quick burst in the 3rd period of Game 2, the last game out in G4 was probably the Pens best effort but Rinne was great. Not so tonight. The Pens put out their best output and Rinne was overwhelmed and out of the game in 20 minutes. Not sure if Rinne will join Bobrovsky and Holtby in a support group for battered goalies of the Penguins spring, but maybe they should.
- Huge game from Crosby. Right from the start he was clearly on beast mode, best player on the ice status. 3 assists and a post shot later that was more than enough. Another performance like that and it's time to bring the brandy....
- Malkin wasn't far behind with a goal and an assist himself, the goal being a special dagger to go up 3-zip in the first period.
- After being called out in some quarters in the media (and Malkin wanting him to score) old Phil went 1g+2a in a big night. Not how you start, how you finish.
- And how about Justin Schultz, believed to have broken some ribs less than 3 weeks ago opening up the scoring. Can't get much better than that.
- Conor Sheary gets a goal on his 25th birthday. In the Cup Final. Not a bad day.
- Ron Hainsey, after calls for him to sit (including here!) will get notice for scoring but that's not what matters. He was good on the PK in the 1st period, with the Pens up 2-0, to play the body, clear the puck and kill it off. Big time.
- Did folks not want Matt Murray in this game? The Pens netminder only needed to stop 19 shots, but stop them he did. And he was 9/9 in the first period when the game was competitive. As about always he was very calm, steady and kept the ship afloat when needed.
- And, in a way, this showed it's not about Murray/MAF or Hainsey vs. anyone else, it's just about the Pens. If the big dogs are rolling, it doesn't matter about the rest they're just that good.
- Nashville gooned it up big time, bad look for several of them. Most teams (like Ottawa getting blown out in Game 5 last series) just take the L and move on. The Preds couldn't let it go. Yikes.
- By virtue of a 20-19 margin, and despite score effect, Pittsburgh outshot their opponent. Only the 8th time in 24 playoff games this year.
- One more to go, you guys.
Pittsburgh hasn't won in Nashville yet, but you could argue, especially in G4 that they played well enough to do so. The vaunted atmosphere and scrappy/gritty/angry/dirty Preds won't be looking to lay down. But as 87, 71 and 81 showed tonight, they can feel that the end not only is near, the end is here folks. This is it. See you on Sunday night. The Stanley Cup will be in the building and only the Pens can win it. if that doesn't raise your heartbeat and give you goosebumps, I don't know what will.