Preds Fall 4-1 As Rinne Struggles Again In Game 2

Posted at 12:00 AM, Jun 01, 2017

This one the Penguins deserved. Their 4-1 win in game two of the Stanley Cup Final sending a loud message that they're still the reigning champs and that the Predators are going to have to be a whole lot better in game three in Nashville to make this a series.

There were similarities to game one. The Preds outshot the Pens again, there was questionable officiating and another own goal by a Nashville defender. But the biggest takeaway on this night was that the Penguins are the most explosive team in hockey, at times breathtaking with their quick-strike ability.

That was on full display in the third period when the Pens scored three goals in the first 3:28, sucking the life out of the Predators on the way to a 4-1 win in a game that was tied 1-1 after two.

"I thought we played pretty well even after they scored," Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. "Even in the second we had chances but couldn't get a goal. Then, obviously, made a couple mistake in the third  and it cost us."

Jake Guentzel pounded in a rebound of a Bryan Rust shot just :10 into the period to give the Penguins the lead. It was Guentzel's second goal of the night and third of the series after he also had the game-winner in game one. For the playoffs, the 22-year-old forward has 12 goals, setting the record for an American-born player in the playoffs.

Then, like in game one, the Penguins third goal came via a fortunate bounce. Phil Kessel's shot bounding in front of Pekka Rinne and off Scott Wilson before Vernon Fiddler slammed into Rinne, jamming the puck into his own net.

With the PPG Arena roaring and the Predators reeling, Evgeni Malkin fired a shot past Rinne just :15 later and that was it. Rinne was pulled and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

Now the Predators have to worry about the series slipping away.

After carrying them through the first three rounds, Rinne has become a liability in this series. He allowed four goals for the second consecutive game Wednesday, tying his playoff-high. That's eight goals against in just 36 shots faced in the series, a save percentage of .777, which is not going going to get it done against the league's highest scoring team.

When asked to rate his play through the first two games of the series, the normally chatty Rinne offered this summation:

"We're down 2-0 going back home. Obviously it's not the situation we wanted to be coming here. But I'm not going to rate my play."

The Predators needed Rinne to stay in peak form to beat the Penguins. If he continues to play at this level they have no chance.

The night looked to get off to a promising start. Young Pontus Aberg began the scoring with a beautiful goal in which he threw the puck around Olli Maatta and then patiently got Matt Murray to commit before throwing it top shelf. It was the 23-year-old's second goal of the playoffs. You may remember the first, it won game five for the Predators in Anaheim.

The Penguins answered back with Guentzel's first goal, a flip of the puck that somehow hit off of Rinne's chest and in on the near post.

It's just been that kind of a series for Rinne. You could make an argument the Predators have outskated the Penguins for five of the six periods through two games, but Rinne's been badly outplayed by Matt Murray and it's Pittsburgh that holds the 2-0 series lead.

"It's obviously frustrating," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "The first game I thought we played well. The second game for the most part we played well, but this is a winning business and at the end of the day you just have to win. It doesn't matter really how you're playing, just the result at the end."

The result of two games in Pittsburgh is that the Preds are in trouble for the first time in this postseason. And now they have to hope an extra day off before game three can help Rinne regain his form and help them regain their mojo before game three.

Because if not, even the hysteria of the first ever Stanley Cup Final game in Smashville won't be enough to save them.