Hockey can be a cruel and unusual sport. Such was the case for the Predators in game one of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night.
In it's first ever trip to hockey's biggest stage, the Predators outplayed the defending Cup champions for much of the night, but had a goal overturned by replay and allowed an own goal and an empty-netter in a 5-3 loss.
"I thought our guys played great, I thought we played a good game," a surprisingly upbeat Predators coach Peter Laviolette said after the game. "We hate the score. We hate the result."
It was a game that was difficult to get a grasp on. The Preds felt like they controlled the action yet 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."
The Penguins, on the other hand, were outshot 26-12, but somehow won one of the wackiest Stanley Cup Final games in history.
"We got a favorable result tonight," a relieved Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "But no one in our locker room is fooled by the score tonight."
Despite a disastrous first period in which they surrendered three goals in just over 4:00 after Subban's apparent goal was wiped away because of a controversial offsides ruling from replay, the Predators fought back, controlling much of the final two periods.
Nashville outshot Pittsburgh 10-0 during the second period and held the Penguins without a shot on goal for exactly 37:00, the longest streak in a Stanley Cup Final game since the NHL began keeping track of shots in 1957.
"I know we were doing a good job defensively, but I didn't know the numbers," Laviolette said. "I think again it goes back to our respect of the opponent. They have some really good players that put us on guard defensively."
The Penguins continued a theme from this postseason in which they've been opportunistic, converting frequently on limited chances. In game one, they scored on four of their first nine shots, even if it took them 57:00 to get them.
"You look up the whole second period and don't get a shot," said Nick Bonino, who had two of the Penguins goals, including an empty-netter late. "Guys were saying? 'Shoot!' We need to shoot more. It's tougher than it seems."
But Jake Guentzel shot and scored on Pekka Rinne with 3:17 to play, snapping his personal eight-game scoreless streak and dooming the Preds' comeback efforts.
And now, despite the visuals on the ice in game one, the Predators find themselves trailing in a series for the first time this postseason.
"I don't think we played poorly at all," Laviolette said Tuesday. "That said, we lost the game, they're up 1-nothing, and so we've got to better. We've got to be ready to put the hammer on the gas pedal (in game two) and make sure we're ready to get after it.