Penguins fall flat in Game 3 loss to Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a raucous Bridgestone Arena crowd was in danger of losing its enthusiasm, Roman Josi and his teammates on the power play gave the Nashville Predators a spark.
For the Penguins, the power play was where sparks went to die.
Josi’s special-teams strike kickstarted a three-goal second period for the Predators, leading them to a 5-1 victory over the Penguins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
The Penguins lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Monday night in Nashville.
“They were the more desperate team tonight,” Sidney Crosby said. “That was pretty evident.”
The Penguins went 0 for 3 on the power play in the game to fall to 1 for 13 in the series. They managed one shot on goal in six minutes of power-play time.
“It’s the first time in my career we can’t score like that,” Evgeni Malkin said. “So many chances. We’re not shooting the puck. They pressure us. First power play, we moved the puck so well, but still no shots.
“We need to change something. I don’t know. If we score a couple goals, it’s so much easier to play. It’s not working. We need change. Maybe players. I don’t know. It’s tough to say right now. But I know we played bad on the power play.”
Whether on the power play or even strength, neither Crosby nor Malkin got a shot on the goal in the game. Crosby attempted one. Malkin tried none.
“I’m not having room,” Malkin said. “I have puck, like, one second. I try my best. We all try our best. They play very well. We need to change something. I don’t know. It’s hard to say right now.”
Given the energy level in the building, which was hosting a game in the final series for the first time, it would have been reasonable to expect the adrenaline-fueled Predators to steamroll the Penguins early.
They did nothing of the sort, and before the game was three minutes old, Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Crosby’s line caused a commotion on the forecheck, with the puck making its way to Ian Cole at the left point. Cole shot, and Guentzel slipped the rebound past goalie Pekka Rinne.
Guentzel has scored in all three games of the final series. He has 13 goals in the playoffs, one off the all-time NHL rookie record set by Minnesota’s Dino Ciccarelli in 1981.
“I thought the first part of the game, we did everything we wanted to do,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We got the first goal. I thought we controlled the puck. We controlled momentum.”
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin gets his stick stuck on Predators left wing Filip Forsberg in the third period of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. For more images from Game 3, visit the Trib’s photo gallery.
Photo by Christian Tyler Randolph
The Penguins continued to push, and Rinne continued to look shaky but the score stayed 1-0 through the end of the period. That left the Predators in a perfectly fine position from which to attack in the second.
And attack they did.
The momentum turned when Justin Schultz was called for holding about four minutes in. Josi scored on the ensuing power play, connecting on a shot from the right faceoff circle that deflected off the left glove of penalty killer Carter Rowney.
The Predators rode the wave to another goal 42 seconds later when Frederick Gaudreau used Cole as a screen and beat Matt Murray with a wrister from the slot.
“We gave them so much space,” Malkin said. “They controlled puck. We lost control, I think, after the first period. We took a couple of penalties. We gave them a couple of breakaways. It’s not our game.”
Finally, with 22.6 seconds left in the period, the Predators delivered a dagger when a Viktor Arvidsson pass banked off defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the back of the net to James Neal at the post for a shot in off Murray’s glove.
“It’s tough to come back when those things happen,” winger Patric Hornqvist said. “We have to stay with it. We can’t give up that goal. And we have to be better on the power play.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.