PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins needed just over three minutes at the start of the third period to turn a taut Game 2 into a runaway, beating the Nashville Predators a 4-1 on Wednesday night and inch closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back titles.
The barrage started with rookie Jake Guentzel. Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraskan provided the winner in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs.
“It’s crazy,” said Guentzel, who has an NHL rookie record five game-winning goals this postseason. “You can’t even put into words what it feels. But we know the ultimate goal is two more wins and they’re going to be tough to get.”
Pekka Rinne struggling
Only if Pekka Rinne turns back into Rinne. The 34-year-old spent the first three rounds of the playoffs helping carry Nashville to the Final for the first time. Now he’s the biggest reason the Predators head back to “Smashville” for Game 3 on Saturday night reeling. After giving up four goals on 11 shots in Game 1, he allowed four more on 25 shots in Game 2. He was pulled when Evgeni Malkin ended Pittsburgh’s surge with his ninth of the playoffs 3:28 into the third.
Rinne entered the series with a .947 save percentage in the postseason. Against Pittsburgh, it’s at .777 and he remains winless in his career against the Penguins in games he’s started.
“The limited chances they’ve had they’ve done a good job,” Rinne said. “Overall these two games, like I said, it’s disappointing to be down 2-0 but we have to be feeling still positive with the way we played as a whole and creating chances.”
Pontus Aberg scored the lone goal for the Predators , who were once again undone by a sudden barrage from the NHL’s highest-scoring team, though they haven’t lost faith in Rinne. Defenseman P.K. Subban said the team was “extremely confident” and in the prospect of going home, where the Predators are 7-1 during the playoffs.
“We’re going to win the next game and then we’ll see what happens from there,” Subban said.
It wouldn’t take much to be better than what happened in Pittsburgh. (The Associated Press)
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