Predators Battle Back, But Fall 5-3 In Game One

Posted at 11:42 PM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 19:22:00-04

The Predators first ever Stanley Cup Final game was a bizarre one in which they outplayed the defending champion Penguins for much of the night only to lose 5-3 in game one.

Nashville dominated possession and outshot Pittsburgh 26-12, yet five Penguins' shots found their way into the back of the net. The game-winner coming on an out of nowhere Jake Guentzel wrister with just 3:17 to go.

"At the end of the day, my job is to make the save," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said of the fourth goal he allowed on the night in just 11 shots faced, by far his worst outing of the playoffs. "I'm disappointed I couldn't help my team."

It was Guentzel's team-high 10th goal of the playoffs and it snapped a streak of 37:00 in which the Predators held the Penguins without a single shot on goal.

The Predators dominated much of the final two periods of this game, erasing a 3-0 deficit, yet still walked away with a loss.

"I thought we outplayed them, I really did," Predators Defenseman P.K. Subban said. "I thought we did a lot of things well. Obviously, being down 3-0 on the Stanley Cup champions, coming back tying it 3-3 and having the opportunity to win the hockey game is definitely something to build on."

It took Nashville 20 years from being given a hockey team to reach it's first Stanley Cup Final, but now it would love to forget the first 20:00 when they had a goal disallowed upon review and gave up three goals in just over 4:00 to fall behind 3-0.

The Predators looked to strike first when Filip Forsberg tracked down a loose puck in the attack zone and found Subban who ripped a laser past Matt Murray for an apparent 1-0 lead.

But Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal for an offsides that happened on the zone entry, and after a lengthy review it was determined Forsberg did not keep his back skate on the ice long enough to stay onsides before the puck entered the zone, wiping away the goal.

A few minutes later the Preds were whistled for two penalties, an interference on Calle Jarnkrok and a cross-check by James Neal, giving the Penguins 2:00 of a 5-on-3 Power Play. And Pittsburgh cashed in on a blast from Evgeni Malkin that went off Rinne's normally reliable glove and in.

It was Malkin's team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs and league-best 25th point of the postseason, and it woke up what had been a subdued PPG Arena.

With the crowd still buzzing, the Penguins scored again just 1:04 later on a beautiful feed from veteran Chris Kunitz to Conor Sheary for his first goal of the playoffs.

And the Penguins weren't done, striking again for a 3-0 lead when Nick Bonino's one handed effort to center the puck was blocked away by Rinne right off of Mattias Ekholm's leg and in.

"We don't want to be chasing games like that and putting ourselves in a 3-0 hole against the defending Cup champs," said Predators forward James Neal. "We've got to do a lot of the little things better."

The three goal deficit was the Predators' largest deficit of the playoffs, but they were undeterred, battling back to dominate the second period and into the third.

The Preds outshot the Pens 10-0 in the second frame with Ryan Ellis scoring the first Stanley Cup Final goal in franchise history on a Power Play blast.

Nashville got another Power Play tally in the third period as Colton Sissons got a deflection of a Roman Josi shot past Matt Murray to make it 3-2 with 9:54 left. It was Sissons' fourth goal in the past two games since replacing injured star Ryan Johansen as the team's top line center.

And the Preds kept attacking with Austin Watson getting a takeaway deep in the Penguins end and finding Freddy Gaudreau for his first career playoff goal with 6:31 left.

Gaudreau became the 17th different Predator to score a goal in the playoffs, and it looked like once again this team would storm back from a deficit to win.

Instead, Guentzel's wrister ended the Penguins' shot drought, giving them a goal and a game one win.

"It's hard. Obviously, we wanted a different result," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "I thought we played a pretty good game, had our chances and had our chances to win that game, but now we have forget about it."

Bonino's empty-net goal late capped the scoring and a truly bizarre night in Pittsburgh.

"We didn't play well," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan after the game. And his team won 5-3.

The question now for the Predators is will they look at how they controlled large chunks of the game against the defending champs and gain confidence, or feel like they played close to their best and still couldn't figure out how to win?

Regardless, the Predators now trail in a series for the firs time this postseason, and must be better in game two.