Predators on brink as Rinne struggles again in Pittsburgh

Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel falls over goalie Matt Murray during Monday’s game against Nashville. Bruce Bennett | Pool
Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel falls over goalie Matt Murray during Monday’s game against Nashville. Bruce Bennett | Pool
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10 June, 2017

While the NBA Finals appears destined for a hasty resolution, the Stanley Cup Finals seem to be headed for high drama, as the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins square off in Game 5 on Thursday night, with the series tied up 2-2.

We have the Pittsburgh Penguins vs Nashville Predators. With Rinne's no-look left pad stop on Jake Guentzel early in the second period of a tie game on Monday night? "That means a lot to us, to play our best at home, in front of our fans". The Pittsburgh Penguins have won seven of their last eight games when allowing under four goals. Crosby is the best player in the game and they have him on their team, everything short of actually maiming a guy on the ice will be justifiable in a quest to win the Cup. "We get a power play, we score on the power play". Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky are the only players to captain back-to-back Cup winners in the last three decades - an esteemed group Crosby would join with one more win in Nashville on Sunday night. "We had some good moments, we had some bad moments and we knew it was a best of three and we had to kind of learn from the past and put things behind us. All we can do is learn from it and go and get better".

The Predators can take heart from knowing there has been little carryover of momentum from one game to the next in the playoffs this spring. The team directed fans to watch the pivotal game in the 2-2 series on screens outside. They did it past year when they were up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final going into Game 5 at home against the San Jose Sharks.

The downs and ups of the Predators goalie have been the dominant storyline throughout the Cup Final.

Early in the second period, the birthday boy scored a attractive goal on a pass from Sidney Crosby to make it 4-0 for the Penguins, and provide a solid cushion for the hometown team.

Crosby also earned an assist on Kessel's goal, which gave the Penguins a five-goal lead.

Rust and Sheary played very well and certainly propelled their team to a win, but not one of the Penguins reserve scorers came up bigger than Ron Hainsey.

"It's a rollercoaster, it's an emotional ride", said Rinne, who has a 1.88 goals-against average and.932 save percentage in 20 postseason starts this year. "It's a big game". Ottawa bounced back to win Game 6 on home ice and force a seventh game.

It was a familiar showing for Rinne. Losing the two previous games in Nashville gave them something to think about on the trip home.

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But Rinne struggled again Thursday in Pittsburgh, a place where he's never started and won in six career games.

This is the first time Nashville has faced elimination this postseason after sweeping Chicago, beating St. Louis in six games and then Anaheim in six to claim the Western Conference title. It's its own slice of the pie, and you've got to go out and fight for that slice every day and be ready to write that chapter.

"It was just one of those games where they were going and we were trying to find it and didn't really get it going at any point", Rinne said.

"But I think as a team we have to feel confident playing at home, having that opportunity to play Game 6 at home".

After the first period, when the Penguins were leading the game with 2-0, Subban and Crosby clashed near the boards behind the net. There will be plenty of story lines going into Game 6 in Nashville, but it all comes down to this: the Stanley Cup is Pittsburgh's to lose.

Rust made it 2-0 just 6:43 into the game with a nasty backhand flip over Rinne's glove. The goal was the first of three in the period, but it was Crosby's effort that got everybody juiced up.

Simply, the Penguins have two chances to repeat; the Predators have one shot at stopping them.

Crosby also avoided a penalty in the second period.


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