Stanley Cup Final: Penguins overcome slow stretch to edge Predators in Game 1
Pittsburgh goes without a shot on goal in the second period but pulls out a thrilling win in Game 1
The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins went without a shot for virtually two periods of Monday night's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but a superb stretch for the Nashville Predators' defense was not enough to stop Steel City from celebrating Memorial Day with a victory, as the Pens used a couple of last-minute scores to down the Preds, 5-3.
Most of the first two periods of Monday's showdown belonged to Pittsburgh, actually, but only because of the scoreboard.
Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino all got in on the action early on, scoring back-to-back-to-back goals in a span of roughly four minutes to showcase the Pens' ever-threatening offense and put the defending champs up 3-0.
But Nashville's blue line clamped down in a hurry to follow up the uncharacteristically slow start for Pekka Rinne, surrendering just eight shots on goal in the first period despite Pittsburgh's lead. A historic second period came after that, with the Pens failing to take a single shot at Rinne before the second break, marking the first period in team playoff history with zero shots on goal and the first time a team has been held to no shots in a Stanley Cup Final period since they started track the statistic in 1957-58.
Ryan Ellis then got the Preds on the board in the second, taking a long-anticipated step up in the wake of Nashville's injuries up front with a power-play strike past Matt Murray. And with the Pens still fighting to even register a shot since the first period more than 10 minutes into the third, the Predators struck again, pulling within one after some decisive puck movement and another power-play goal, this one from Colton Sissons.
Then came the equalizer from Frederick Gaudreau, off an assist from Austin Watson, that silenced the PPG Paints Arena crowd and seemingly had the Predators in position to steal a thriller of a Game 1.
But when Pittsburgh finally got itself back in the shots-on-goal column more than 37 minutes after its eighth attempt of the night from the first period, it did so with a bang, reclaiming a lead on a beauty of a score from Jake Guentzel. Pittsburgh then put the contest away on an empty-netter from Bonino in the waning minutes.
A five-goal night for the Pens speaks volumes about Pittsburgh's high-scoring potential, of course, but it doesn't exactly paint the full picture of Monday night's Stanley Cup Final opener, which had the Preds' name written all over it at times. Nashville's signature aggressiveness was on display in the team's stingy blue-line showing in the middle of the game, and a two-goal run in the third had them on the verge of another entertaining comeback.
Still, with one game down, the Pens have at least proven they can top perhaps the Preds' greatest postseason weapon in the form of a typically sturdy Rinne. And with the first rematch set for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, the defending title winners will have a shot at claiming a commanding series lead before the clash even hits Music City.
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