Nashville Predators 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (Series tied 2-2)
We expected a response from the Predators on home ice. We maybe even expected them to take both games, given their track record in Bridgestone Arena. But the 9-2 scoreline in favor of Nashville across the two games could hardly have been predicted. The latest chapter — a 4-1 victory to even the series at two games apiece — was a shining example of just what the underdog Predators are capable of when playing to their potential as they moved to 9-0-1 at home in the 2017 playoffs.
For the second (official) time in the series, Nashville opened the scoring. Calle Jarnkrok made the most of a loose puck in the crease to give his team a 1-0 lead with six minutes to go in the first period, and the play was upheld following an unsuccessful Mike Sullivan challenge for goaltender interference. But the Penguins were not without a response, as their captain tallied for the first time in the Final — his first SCF goal since 2009 — just over a minute later. Sidney Crosby broke in behind the Nashville blue line all alone and used some slick stickhandling to put the puck past the outstretched pad of Pekka Rinne.
The second period, once again, belonged to the Predators. Despite starting the frame shorthanded, the home side put up two goals to take a 3-1 lead. The first, from Frederick Gaudreau three minutes and change into the period, almost didn’t count, as his wraparound attempt seemed to be held off the line by Matt Murray for 35 seconds before the scorer’s box sounded the horn to stop play. After a brief review, the goal was allowed and the lost time was added back. Viktor Arvidsson added another 10 minutes later after some well-earned assists from James Neal and Mike Fisher sprung him on a breakaway, where he rifled a shot just under Murray’s glove for his first goal in 15 games.
The third period was quiet from a scoresheet perspective, but the crowd was lively as ever as their team hung on to tie up the series and create a best-of-3 going forward. The empty-net goal from Filip Forsberg provided some additional cause for excitement, as the star scorer had gone goal-less in the first three games and will look to build off of his first career SCF point.
Both goaltenders provided some impressive acrobatic saves, but it was Nashville’s #35 shutting the door after one goal against for the second straight game. Pekka Rinne earned first-star honors with a 23 save performance facing 24 shots, while Matt Murray stopped 22 of 25. Game 4 will be back in PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.