Stanley Cup Final: Game 3
Pittsburgh Penguins at Nashville Predators (PIT leads 2-1)
Monday, June 5, 2017 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Bridgestone Arena - Nashville, TN
Watch: NBC - NBC Sports app - NBCSports.com
SBN participant blogs: On the Forecheck - Pensburgh
Keys to Victory
- Opportunity Knocks: It wasn't much of a secret that Nashville outplayed Pittsburgh for much of games 1 and 2, but the Penguins were the far more opportunistic team as they capitalized on their chances (usually in quick succession). This kind of rapid-fire attack wreaks havoc on opponents, both psychologically and on the scoreboard. We saw huge first and third periods from the Pens in Pittsburgh, and a crucial second from the Preds Saturday night as they scored twice in 42 seconds to tie the game and ultimately take the lead. For the first time in the series, Nashville was the team making the most of what was given to them, despite Pittsburgh playing an even better game in Bridgestone Arena. And you can call it luck, you can call it whatever you may — goals like the one James Neal scored will be the ones that decide the series, but for now they could help Nashville create a whole new ball game with a win tonight.
- Rinne Returns (Again): Finally, after much head-scratching and hypotheticals, Pekka Rinne found a way to be Pekka Rinne again. He has carried his team at times, and they undoubtedly don't get to the Final without him, but he cost them the first two games with a spotty performance in both. But that didn't stop the Smashville faithful from throwing the full weight of their support behind him as he looked to rebound in Game 3, and he surely didn't disappoint, making 27 saves on his way to second star honors. He'll need to be just as good, if not better, tonight if the Preds are to even the series.
- Learn Your Lesson: The San Jose Sharks went down 0-2 in last year's SCF to these Penguins before winning Game 3, but it was a loss in Game 4 that put them in a 3-1 hole that proved too deep to dig out of. Obviously the Penguins would like to win tonight and every night, but the chance to go home to a possible Cup-clinching affair gives them the same kind of desperation as the Predators. A quiet Sidney Crosby is due for a big night, and any expectation of having Pittsburgh on their heels should be tossed aside. Nashville would be wise to learn from their Californian counterparts' mistake and treat tonight like an elimination game. Otherwise, this may be the last time we see them in front of the bedlam known as Bridgestone Arena until October. -Peter Dewar
- Limit shots: This may sound like a basic key for a hockey team, but for the Pens, this is a necessity going into Game 4. Over the first three games in the series, Pittsburgh has been outshot 97-67, and the only reason they have a lead in the series is shoddy play by Pekka Rinne in the first two games. However, he might have gotten his confidence back. Pittsburgh can’t rely on an astronomically high shooting percentage to win; they are going to need to turn up the heat in Game 4.
- Ron Hainsey and Brian Dumoulin under the spotlight: The second pairing of the Pittsburgh Penguins has proven to be pivotal in the series. In games 1 and 2 both players were even and, except for Dumoulin in Game 2, each player had a point in both games and played to a positive plus-minus rating on the night. However, in Game 3, the pairing went -2 and both struggled to generate possession with Dumoulin and Hainsey earning a 48.7% and 41.9% Corsi for, respectively, at even strength. While none of the defensive pairings has been stellar, the Pens desperately need to have two pairings that they can put out in any situation, and with the Hainsey-Dumoulin pairing isn’t playing well, you get the result that we saw in Game 3.
- Strong up the Middle: The Penguins’ biggest strength in the series are their centers: simply put, when they play well, they win. With Nick Bonino out on Sunday, the Pens struggled to get the offense going with their bottom six. Bonino is day to day with a foot injury, and if he’s out again tonight, Carter Rowney is likely to continue filling in as the third line center. With Bonino out the other players will need to step up, and that didn’t happen in game 3. Evgeni Malkin had an abysmal 22.2% Corsi on Saturday with a -1 and two PIMs. Matt Cullen also had a rough night when it came to possession with a 40.7%, a -1 rating and a late-game misconduct. The center position needs to be the biggest matchup problem for the Preds, not a weakness for the Pens. -Zeke Lukow