The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Pittsburg Penguins and Nashville Predators have been a thrilling roller-coaster ride for hockey fans across the nation.
The Penguins, playing at home for the first two games of the series, took the first game in a 5-3 victory over the Predators. The Predators showed tremendous resiliency in the game after finding themselves trailing 3-0 and rallying to tie the game at 3-3. However, Pittsburg fell behind once forward Jake Guentzel scored with 3:17 remaining in the third period. Guentzel could have initially been a healthy scratch for the Penguins, but head coach Mike Sullivan gave Guentzel the call. The Penguins later added another goal and sealed the victory.
“You just have to stay positive, I think,” Guentzel said. “You just have to stay with it.”
Guentzel continued his stellar play into the second game of the series, scoring two of the team’s four goals as they beat the Predators by a score of 4-1. Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin both added a goal apiece for the Penguins and Pontus Aberg scored for the Penguins. After an early 1-1 tie in the first period, it only took Pittsburg three minutes early in third period to get their three goals that would guarantee them the win.
“I know our guys believe in their ability to finish, and so it’s about making sure that if we don’t get anything, we try to limit the opportunities of our opponents to the best of our ability” coach Sullivan said.
The series shifted to Nashville for the next two games, and the Predators were facing a major challenge from the defending champion Penguins, who could almost taste the cup trophy.
Guentzel scored in the first period, giving him his fourth goal of the series, but after that the game was all in favor of the Predators. Nashville scored the next five goals of the game as they routed Pittsburg for a final score of 5-1. The Predators had a full team effort as each goal was scored by a different player. Roman Josi, Frederick Gaudreau, James Neal, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm each had a goal for the team.
“I think at those moments, just mentally, you try to erase your mind and focus on the next save and remind yourself that you’re still in the finals and life’s pretty good,” Predator goalie Pekka Rinne said.
Game four of the series without a doubt proved that the Predators were going to give the defending champions one tough battle in these finals. After initially jumping out early on the Penguins with a first period goal from Calle Jarnkrok, the Penguins captain Sidney Crosby responded with a goal of his own in the period, and that was the last moment the game was tied.
Nashville went on another run of goals and scored the final three goals of the game and celebrated a 4-1 victory over Pittsburg. Each goal in this game was also scored by a different player as Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Frederick Gaudreau each scored, and Gaudreau gained his third goal of the finals.
“All of those things matter when you’re up a goal or even down a goal or the game is tied. You’ve got to do those things consistently” said Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.
Game five will be a telling game as the series approaches its conclusion. With pride on the line for the Penguins and a chance to prove themselves on hockey’s biggest stage for the Predators, look for a game filled with excitement and heart on Thursday, June 7.