Stanley Cup Final: Game 3
Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators (PIT leads 2-0)
Saturday, June 3, 2017 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN
Watch: NBCSN - NBC Sports app - NBCSports.com
SBN participant blogs: On the Forecheck - Pensburgh
Keys to Victory
- Uh...Rinne? It feels like deja vu, but the Predators goaltending let them down in a big way in Game 2, again. They played competitive hockey and were set up for a good third period before their usually solid netminder coughed up three goals in the third period, putting the game out of reach. Considering how dominant Nashville has been for much of this series, even just decent goaltending for a full 60 minutes would see them well on their way to getting back into the series. Peter Laviolette still hasn't confirmed his Game 3 starter, but it's hard to imagine Rinne not getting the nod, though his leash will undoubtedly be as short as ever.
- Feed Off the Crowd: As the saying goes, "you're not in trouble in a playoff series until you lose at home." The Predators have a very good chance to earn a win and eventually even the series; their 8-1 record on home ice in these playoffs is proof of their mettle in Bridgestone Arena. The Penguins, though, are their toughest opponent yet, and they'll need the now-famous crowd in Nashville to be out in force (which they certainly will be). They just lost twice in a row for the first time in the 2017 playoffs — despite what the ever-confident P.K. Subban says, that's not something that inspires confidence. Having their city behind them once again will go a long way towards the Preds earning their first Stanley Cup Final win.
- Are you there, Filip? James? Part of the reason the Preds were able to dispatch the Ducks in six games was the play of their superstars. Losing Ryan Johansen limited the number of them, but Nashville's elite showed up in key moments. Think of the OT winner from James Neal in Game 1, the five out of six games that Filip Forsberg scored in — the best players dictated the game, with help from depth assets as well. In this series, guys like Forsberg and Neal haven't been able to get going, and the depth players just haven't been able to produce enough, despite their impressive performances (still thinking about that Pontus Aberg goal in Game 2). When Forsberg was at his best in the WCF, he impacted every game, even when he didn't score. His presence will need to be felt in Game 3, as well as Neal's. -Peter Dewar
(By the way, if you missed Peter’s travel diary from the Western Conference Final, do yourself a favor and go read it now.)
- Neutralize the Crowd: Smashville has become real. It almost feels like the 2006 crowds at the RBC Center (now PNC Arena): they're noisy and they stand the whole game. We've seen throughout the playoffs that this Preds team will rally behind this raucous crowd. The Penguins need to do something they haven't done all series and that's come out strong early. They need to score first and they need to take the crowd completely out of this game, or else they risk allowing the Preds to feed off their home fans.
- Don't Fall into the Preds’ Trap: The Predators are starting to look more and more like the Ducks. We saw a little bit of this in Game 1, but the action behind the play really came to the forefront in Game 2. The Preds committed seven penalties in Game 2: 14 minutes of being down a man, almost an entire period. The Pens can’t fall into the trap of playing chippy and taking retaliation penalties: instead, their key to success is letting the Preds get overaggressive. The Penguins giving up cheap power plays is what led to the Preds’ comeback in Game 1, and they were hoping for retaliation calls in game two which never came.
- Keep up the Pressure: There's no dancing around it; the Penguins have blown the goaltending position wide open for the Predators. At this point, there's no telling who will start for Nashville in Game 3, and that's because Pittsburgh has torched Pekka Rinne. Rinne came into the series the favorite to win the Conn Smythe, but now with a sub .800 sv%, he may not start in Game 3 - or, at the very least, he’ll start with a very short leash. The Pens need to keep shooting everything at the goalie no matter if Rinne, Juuse Saros, or Joe the plumber is in net. -Zeke Lukow