For nearly two entire periods of game time, the Nashville Predators had Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final on lockdown, holding the Pittsburgh Penguins without a shot on goal. It was what happened before and after that cost the Preds the game.
The Penguins defeated the Predators 5-3 on Monday night to take a 1-0 series lead, despite setting a record low with only twelve shots on goal, the fewest of any winning team in a Stanley Cup Final game. That total included three consecutive goals off of only eight shots in the first period.
The first period was the most exciting period of the game. Just four minutes into the game it appeared that the Predators had taken an early lead, but upon further review, the goal was controversially waved off because Nashville was offside.
Just over 10:00 later the Preds took two penalties in the same play, interference by Calle Jarnkrok and cross-checking by James Neal. The Pens capitalized on the 5-on-3 with a bomb by Evgeni Malkin. Just a minute later Conor Sheary scored a goal that was set up by a beautiful pass from Sidney Crosby, who sent the puck out from behind the net to Chris Kunitz who fed it cross-ice to Sheary.
Conor Sheary tallies his first goal of the 2017 playoffs. The Stanley Cup Final seems like a good time to make that happen! pic.twitter.com/VG24YfOrM7— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 30, 2017
The final Pens goal of the period was credited to Nick Bonino who centered the puck to the net on his backhand. The puck would have found no one in particular, but bounced off of Mattias Ekholm’s leg and past Pekka Rinne to make the game 3-0.
Bonino’s goal was the last shot the Penguins would put on Rinne for some time. From then on out, Nashville dominated the play. Ryan Ellis finally put the Preds on the board midway through the second on the power play, making it 3-1 at the second intermission, then Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored three and a half minutes apart in the third to tie the game.
Meanwhile, the Penguins were held shotless for the entire second period and a majority of the third period for a total of 37 minutes. It was the first time since the NHL started tracking shots on goal in 1958 that a team went a period in the Final without recording a single shot.
Unfortunately for the Predators, the two shots that bookended that 37-minute stretch were both goals. The game-winner came off the stick of Jake Guentzel who beat Rinne high blocker just three minutes after Gaudreau tied the game. Bonino added an empty net goal with just over a minute left in the game to seal the deal for the Penguins, giving him the second multiple-goal playoff game of his career.
The Predators are now up against history; of the 77 seven-game Stanley Cup Final series dating back to 1939, the team that won Game 1 has won 60 of them, and the last team to buck the trend was the 2011 Boston Bruins. The series continues with Game 2 on Wednesday, May 31st in Pittsburgh at 8:00 pm on NBCSN.