Guentzel shines again as Pens pull clear of Preds in Game Two

Until Wednesday night, Nashville had not lost consecutive games this postseason. One came off a Predators defender in front of the net, and the eventual game-winner came after a 37-minute period of no Penguins shots. But it was something that Evgeni Malkin reportedly said to the Nashville Predators defenceman that sparked a late-game fight. He was pulled when Evgeni Malkin ended Pittsburgh's surge with his ninth of the playoffs 3:28 into the third. And while the Predators desperately need Rinne to rebound and return to form, they also need a way to keep Guentzel, who has three goals in the series, off the scoresheet. The Stanley Cup newbies were disappointed but not dismayed by their Game 1 loss, pointing to the way they carried play for long stretches as tangible proof they weren't just happy to be here. An ice worker removes a fish during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators on Monday, May 29, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. "So we're going back home and we're going to win the next game and we'll see what happens after there". "But you have to put those things behind and focus on the things you can control and that's Game 3".

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic). Pittsburgh Penguins' Ian Cole, center, checks Nashville Predators' Mike Fisher (12) in front of Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, May 31, 2017.

This game was closer to what we had expected out these two up-tempo teams. "We're going to feed off that energy and we're going to be ready".

The defending champion Penguins own a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on Saturday. Of those teams, 90 percent went on to win the Stanley Cup, including Pittsburgh last season.

In Game 2, though, Laviolette had seen enough.

It stayed 4-1 after Pittsburgh's Matt Cullen was ruled offside following a coach's challenge of a goal by Patric Hornqvist.

"We didn't think we had reached our best play yet and we were in a good spot at 1-1, and it's an opportunity to go out and throw up your best period and put yourself in a good spot, and I thought we had a really good period". The Penguins beat Rinne four times on just 11 shots in Game 1 and scored three goals on 25 shots Wednesday for a 2-0 series lead. Rinne had been the hottest goalie in the playoffs coming into the final, but he's been hit for eight goals on only 36 shots in two games and badly outplayed by Matt Murray, who finished with 37 saves in Game 2.

It hasn't been easy against Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh vowed to put more pressure on Rinne than it managed in their 5-3 victory in Game 1, a win they managed despite going 37 minutes without throwing a single puck Rinne's way and none in the second period, the first time that's happened since the National Hockey League started tracking shots in 1957.

Jake Guentzel (Penguins) - Two games, two game-winning goals.

Without question, Rinne was the Predators' leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) at the start of the series, which moves to Bridgestone Arena for Game 3 on Saturday (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

"Pekka has been terrific through this entire playoffs", Laviolette said. Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraska-born rookie provided the victor in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs. Guentzel, at the right post, took two whacks at a rebound of a Conor Sheary shot.

Jake Guentzel scored 10 seconds into the period.

The 22-year-old Guentzel finished with two goals to give him an NHL-high 12 during the playoffs, the second-most by a rookie in postseason history.

Phil Kessel sent a shot toward the net from the right wing, and it glanced off teammate Scott Wilson, then hit Nashville's Vern Fiddler's skate and went under goaltender Pekka Rinne's pads at 3:13 to make it 3-1.

In the Predators' sweep of the Blackhawks, Rinne put up a.976 save percentage.

James Neal (Predators) - He did not get rewarded for it, but he was one of the most risky players for Nashville, with a team-high seven shots. "It's not his fault, by any means". We know how good we can be.

  • Julie Sanders