Coming into Game 4 with a two to one series lead the Pittsburgh Penguins should have been feeling great. They are just two wins away from locking in Cup number five. Nashville is a team that had 17 fewer points than them in the regular season. The Penguins are the defending Champs, have the three best players in the series, and a roster rounded out with playoff and Stanley Cup winning veterans. Yes, Nashville is better on defense but the Pens have a huge advantage in scoring ability. On paper, it’s an ideal situation.
But as someone once said, That is why they play the games. Through three games Nashville has been the team to dictate play forcing things with an aggressive forecheck and a mobile defense that he give the Penguins fits.
Pittsburgh’s power play has been abysmal, just 1 for 13 in the series. The well-documented shot issues for the Penguins have been a huge problem as they are unable to sustain pressure. Pittsburgh went 37 minutes without a shot in Game 1, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had zero shots last game.
Outside of playing the actual game of hockey side stories such as what country singer will sing the anthem, how do you get a catfish into an arena, and does P.K. Subban have bad breath have created a side show of usually saved for TMZ.
Panning the scene before Game 4, it seems like every citizen of Nashville is either at the game or partying in the street outside. What this means is that if Pittsburgh is going to win, they will have to overcome an intense atmosphere and a side show media circus to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Improving play from their stars would be an excellent start. Superstars are superstars for a reason and for Pittsburgh to raise the cup they would need to step up and carry the team, especially in this pivotal matchup.
Things would be made harder by the fact that despite skating on Sunday center Nick Bonino would miss the game.
In the nets again for this one would be Pekka Rinne for the Predators and Matt Murray for the Penguins
Game 4 started with little flow for either team. Stoppages and broken sticks were about all that happened in the early parts of the period. In fact, it took over five minutes for the first shot on goal to be registered.
Nashville controlled the tempo for much of the first and once again were able to monitor things well against the Penguins.
With just over five minutes left in in the 1st, the Predators would kick off the scoring.
Oli Matta would have the puck behind his net but would be unable to clear the zone as he flipped it up the boards.
Keeping the puck in was Yannick Weber with a neat little skate play. The puck then came free to Calle Jarnkrok who passed it to Austin Watson along the boards.
Watson shot it and with Craig Smith positioned in front causing havoc the biscuit bounced in on Murray.
Murray made the first save but the puck came free, and after passing the puck Jarnkrok crashed the cage and was able to bang home the rebound.
— NHL (@NHL) June 6, 2017
Mike Sullivan challenged on the grounds of goaltender interference. Officials looked but the goal held up and the Predators grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Down 1-0 the Penguins would need some magic from someone, and it would come in the form of their captain.
Just about a minute after the Jarnkrok goal, Crosby would take a feed from Brian Dumoulin and cut in behind the Predators defense.
On a breakaway, Crosby would first fake a shot and then go backhand and beat Renne to tie the game at 1-1.
Captain Crosby, reporting for duty. pic.twitter.com/NjomSLh4Gl
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 6, 2017
Starting the 2nd period with a power play Pittsburgh had a chance to grab a lead but could not convert. Once again the power play failed to convert and give the Penguins momentum.
With 16:15 left Murray made, and amazing save on Frederick Gaudreau as he attempted a wrap around
It looked as thought Murray had kept the game at 1-1, but at the 15:40 mark the horn sounded in Bridgestone Arena.
Officials had looked at the Murray saved and determined that the puck had crossed the line and the Predators once again had grabbed the lead 2-1.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 6, 2017
Pittsburgh had a great chance to tie the game a few moments later as Crosby walked in once again on a breakaway.
Renne made the save, and a scrambled ensued as it looked like Guentzel had an open cage to tie the game.
P E K K A
R I N N E
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 6, 2017
No dice though and the game remained 2-1.
That is until Viktor Arvidsson walked in alone after a great play by Mike Fisher to spring him loose.
— NHL (@NHL) June 6, 2017
3-1 the Predators led after two periods. If the Penguins were going to win this game, they would need to mount a severe 3rd-period comeback in hostile territory.
Once again the power play provided a chance for the Penguins to get back into the game. Just like in the rest of the series though they could not convert. Pittsburgh ended the game 0 for 3 with the man advantage.
The rest of the 3rd period Pittsburgh would not be able to cut into the lead, and in fact, with about four minutes left in the game the Nashville fans started “We want the Cup.”
About 30 seconds later Filip Forsberg dumped one into the empty net, game over. It’s hard to think but the thought of Nashville winning the series became a real thing last night.
See you in Pittsburgh Thursday night for game 5.
1. The Penguins just seemed gassed and unable to maintain any pressure against the Preds. It looks to be affecting their ability to be scoring goals. These big breaks in between games actually could play to the Penguins favor.
2. Is Peter Laviolette outcoaching Mike Sullivan? I don’t think so, but you have to commend him so far for keeping his team focused and handled Rinne correctly
3. Will this be the game that gets Marc-Andre Fleury back in the cage? I would put him in for strategic reasons. Murray seems to play better when the team in front of him is playing disciplined and sound defensive hockey. MAF seems to thrive when the team is taking chances, and he has to bail them out. For the Penguins, Game 5 might be an opportunity to plug in MAF at home and play a wide open style. Pittsburgh can try to get the Predators to play a different kind of game. Mike Sullivan has pushed all the right buttons, and it feels like he has something up his sleeve still.
4. Is Nick Bonino going to be the player getting hurt that pushes this team over the brink? Losing a 3rd line checker who is at best a role player should not doom this team. They have overcome the loss of a Norris Trophy Candidate defenseman. Crosby missed games. Their starting goaltender for much of the 1st two rounds was missing. No way a 3rd line center can be the straw that breaks the Pens.
5. The Penguins power play has got to get going. 0-3 in this one and just is not acceptable. Would it be too much to ask for them to crank at some 25% over the next three games? Scoring on the power play surely could make things easier.