Rookie Jake Guentzel scored twice, as the Penguins reversed a lackluster offensive effort in Game 1 – in which they were held without a shot for the entire second period – with a barrage at home on Wednesday night.
With 12 goals, Guentzel is now second all-time in goals by a rookie in a single postseason, two back of Dino Ciccarelli’s 14 in 1981.
Rinne was pulled 3 minutes and 28 seconds into the third period after the Penguins’ fourth goal. Arguably the favorite for playoff MVP entering the Final, Rinne has given up eight goals on 36 shots in two games – that’s a .778 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final.
Matt Murray, meanwhile, was a steadying presence for Pittsburgh in making 37 saves.
The first period of Game 2 will be remembered for being one of the poorest officiated 20 minutes of the playoffs, to the point where Mike Milbury of NBC Sports called the refereeing “putrid” between periods. There were five minor penalties called between the teams, including a 5-on-3 power play for the Predators – the second two-man advantage in the first period of the Final.
Pontus Arberg got the Predators on the board first, using a power move to blow past a helpless Olli Maata and score his second of the postseason at 12:57.
Guentzel got it back at 16:36, somehow finding room to tuck the puck between the pad and glove of Pekka Rinne for his 11th of the playoffs.
The period ended 1-1, with the Penguins having matched their shot total from Game 1.
After a scoreless second period – one that featured two more Predators penalties – Guentzel scored his second of the game and 12th of the playoffs just 10 seconds into the period to give the Penguins the 2-1 lead. Bryan Rust fired a shot, and Rinne kicked it directly to Guentzel for the goal.
And then the floodgates opened.
Scott Wilson was credited with a goal after deflecting a 2-on-1 pass from Phil Kessel on goal, and a sliding Vern Fiddler knocked it through Rinne accidentally for the 3-1 lead at 3:13.
The last shot Rinne saw was from Evgeni Malkin just 15 seconds later, scoring his ninth of the playoffs for the 4-1 lead.
Rinne was replaced by Juuse Saros. Rinne’s save percentage in four playoff games following a loss this postseason had been .960.
Patric Honrqvist thought he made it 5-1, but the goal was overturned on a coach’s challenge for being offside. The Penguins closed out the game with some skirmishes, including a fight between Evgeni Malkin and P.K. Subban late in the third period.
Game 3 is in Nashville on Saturday night, where the Predators are 7-1 in the playoffs.
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