PITTSBURGH (AP) The first period of their first Stanley Cup Final game was a rough one for the Nashville Predators.
They had a goal waved off. They fell behind 3-0 and looked overmatched at times.
And then things settled down. Nashville dominated long stretches of the second and third periods, and even limited the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins without a shot for an impressive 37-minute stretch before falling 5-3. Game 2 is Wednesday night.
”I thought we outplayed them, I really did,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. ”Being down 3-0 to the Stanley Cup champions, coming back and tying it up with an opportunity to win the hockey game is definitely something to build on.”
Ryan Ellis scored in the second period and Colton Sissons in the third, both on the power play, before Frederick Gaudreau tied the game prior to Jake Guentzel’s game-winner for Pittsburgh.
Pekka Rinne made seven saves on just 12 shots. He faced eight of those shots in the first period and then saw none in the second period, the first time a team held an opponent without a shot in a Stanley Cup Final since the league began tracking shots on goal in 1958. The next shot he faced was Guentzel’s goal with 3:17 to play.
”At the end of the game, I’m disappointed I didn’t help my team,” Rinne said. ”We showed a lot of character and I felt we played a great game. They’re a very opportunistic team, a high-skilled team, and we have to limit our mistakes.”
Nick Bonino scored twice, including and empty-net goal, while Evgeni Malkin and Conor Sheary scored in the first period for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 23 saves.
The Predators were a perfect 3-0 on the road in Game 1 during the playoffs. But they allowed three goals in the first period for just the fourth time this season, and now they trail for the first time in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Nashville thought it scored the opening goal midway through the first period when Subban’s wrist shot from the point got by Murray. But the goal was overturned and ruled offside after the first coach’s challenge in a Final game.
”The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
Pittsburgh was awarded a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes, and the Predators were less than 30 seconds from killing the penalty when Malkin’s slap shot from the point beat Rinne. Sheary struck 1:05 after Malkin’s goal, converting a wide-open look from the side of the net. And with just 16.1 seconds left in the first, Rinne poked Bonino’s centering pass and the deflected puck bounced off Mattias Ekholm and into the goal.
”As bad as it seemed, we still found a way to get back into it,” Predators’ captain Mike Fisher said.
The Predators were hardly intimidated by the big stage. Nashville beat Chicago, the top seed in the conference, in a four-game sweep before taking down St. Louis and outlasting Anaheim.
Pittsburgh owns a massive edge in Stanley Cup Final experience, 156 games to just five for the Predators, all by Fisher, while playing for Ottawa. But Nashville entered the Stanley Cup Final playing comfortably and confidently, poise that was on display during points of the second and third periods.
Ellis scored a power-play goal through a Viktor Arvidsson screen midway through the second period, cutting the deficit to 3-1. The Predators continued to press and they were rewarded on the power play when Roman Josi’s shot from the point changed direction and banked off Sissons’ knee at the top of the crease and behind Murray. Nashville tied it with 6:31 to play when Gaudreau scored on a feed from Austin Watson, who beat two Penguins behind the net to set up the goal.
From there, the Predators were rolling, with all the momentum from their three-goal comeback. Guentzel’s shot changed everything.
”It just wasn’t our night,” Fisher said. ”We just have to stay positive. We’ll regroup.”
Source: Fox Sports