Pens head home upbeat despite 0-fer in Nashville

Coach Mike Sullivan pointed to Pittsburgh's transition game and up-ice speed as an area that could improve in the series.

Juuse Saros took over in net for the Predators for the final 40 minutes of the game. He allowed three goals on nine shots in the first period.

By then, Nashville looked dazed, their minds obviously running through the hard task that awaits them now. Their aim Thursday was to minimize the mistakes that the Penguins previously feasted on in taking a 2-0 series lead.

This series, more than anything, has been dictated by the venue. The Predators have one at least one road game in every series so far. Pittsburgh is averaging 3.0 goals per game in the playoffs, the same as the Predators. The Penguins have come within two games of the first team to capture consecutive Cups in almost two decades due in large part to their resiliency. "I know our whole team, our whole organization are so appreciative of the fan support that we get, and I think that has a lot to do with the success that we've enjoyed here at home this season". I would not count him out when it comes to him scoring in game 5 with the looks he has received. And the game was on Washington's home ice.

Phil Kessel, who had gone six games without scoring, had a goal and two assists.

The Penguins unceremoniously ushered the Predators out of Pittsburgh to start with the Final, but Nashville wasn't demoralized by the misleadingly lopsided losses.

"We just played simple, moved the puck up quick and our forwards did a good job of using their speed and playing down low, hanging on to pucks", Schultz said.

Unfortunately for Zolnierczyk and his teammates, the friendly confines of a chilly rink on a dreary day in Western Pittsburgh was heaven for the Penguins. "Tonight's it's all about our effort". Rinne, the Predators goaltender who was so brilliant in Nashville, turned back into a pumpkin in Pittsburgh.

"Obviously not the start you want to have".

On the ensuing power play, Crosby set up Schultz for a slap shot that went under Rinne's pads for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead 1:31 into the first. Not even 13 minutes into the first period, Fleury was pulled after allowing the 4-0 lead.

An eventful night, which saw Matt Murray earn his third career playoff shutout, also included a water bottle mistakenly pitched on the ice by Crosby and some wrestling behind the goal with P.K. Subban.

Bryan Rust scored 6:43 into the first period, beating Pekka Rinne on a backhander while driving toward the net. Chris Kunitz caught up to it and fed it to Rust who was wide open in the slot.

A shot by Pittsburgh Penguins' Justin Schultz gets past Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) for a goal during the first period of Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Pittsburgh. And it worked - for 79 seconds.

Goal - Nashville: Rinne (L, 14-7-0), Saros (15 shots, 12 saves).

The veteran defenseman who hadn't appeared in the playoffs until this spring scored into a wide-open net after a pass from Conn Smythe Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin that went through the legs of Nashville's P.K. Subban. Only five players were held off the scoresheet for Pittsburgh.

"Well, I think our guys are excited to play for a lot of reasons, but certainly we find a comfort level at home", head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters prior to Game 5.

If the Penguins have it their way, that party won't stop Sunday, and for months thereafter, with Lord Stanley's Cup joining them once again for the ride. The Stanley Cup Finals are finally here.

Whatever happens, it's going to be one hell of a show - perhaps one with an encore Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

  • Julie Sanders