Going into game 3 at Bridgestone Arena, there were several questions surrounding the Predators. Can they play a full 60 minutes? Will their scorers emerge? And what's eating Pekka Rinne?
With 50,000 or so fans in and around the arena, the Preds came out to an ovation like no other. But it was Pittsburgh striking first in the form of "hotter than the sun" Jake Guentzel, who netted his 13th goal and 20th point in 22 games of these playoffs. The young American found a rebound and slipped it under Rinne for the early lead. From here it looked like it could be another long night for the Preds (and a short night for Rinne) but the home team provided plenty of pushback in the first frame, ending with 11 shots to Pittsburgh's six.
The second period wholly belonged to Nashville. After a few chances went without conversion, they finally broke through six minutes in with a Roman Josi power-play blast to bring the city to its feet. And 42 seconds later, they erupted again as Frederick Gaudreau sniped a goal off the rush to give his team the lead. The chants were heard loud and clear for the rest of the period, and Nashville wasn't even done there. James Neal, with 23 seconds to go in the frame, added his first tally of the series against his former team after a strange bounce wound up on his tape.
It was more of the same in the third period, with the Smashville faithful starting to taste a Stanley Cup Final win for the first time and willing their team towards two more goals. Craig Smith converted on a breakaway after Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel crossed paths in center ice, coughing up the puck to Smith, while Mattias Ekholm bookended the game with another power-play bomb to bring the scoreline to 5-1.
Pekka Rinne returned to form after a shaky first period, making some crucial stops on his way to a 27-save win. And for the first time since coming into the playoffs, Matt Murray gave up more than three goals as he stopped 28 of 33 shots. Game 4 will be back in Bridgestone Arena on Monday night.