Predators on brink as Rinne struggles again in Pittsburgh

Posted June 10, 2017

The Penguins captain slashed through the Nashville defence on his first shift, drew a penalty and then set up Justin Schultz for the first goal in a 6-0 Thursday night thumping.

But for Pittsburgh outsiders and casual fans, Crosby's antics last night were a vivid reminder of exactly why they don't like him in the first place.

It ended with haymaker after haymaker - both literal and proverbial - from Sidney Crosby and the rest of the resilient Pittsburgh Penguins.

If the Stanley Cup Final were played exclusively in Pittsburgh, it may have been one of the most lopsided series of all time. In all five games of this series, the home team has emerged victorious - and for Pittsburgh, the win snapped a two-game losing streak which had appeared to tip the momentum in the series in favour of the underdog Predators.

An eventful night, which saw Matt Murray earn his third career playoff shutout, also included a water bottle mistakenly pitched on the ice by Crosby and some wrestling behind the goal with P.K. Subban. "Nothing's done yet and we've got a lot of work ahead of ourselves". Crosby finished the evening with three assists, pushing Pittsburgh to within one win of back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Crosby and Subban got matching minors for holding, and Predators coach Peter Laviolette was livid, saying, "I don't understand it".

After the first period, when the Penguins were leading the game with 2-0, Subban and Crosby clashed near the boards behind the net.

More meaningful to his night was the victory, which pushed the Penguins one step closer to becoming the first repeat Stanley Cup victor in 19 years.

"[Subban] lost his stick and he was doing some UFC move on my foot there", Crosby said of the first-period encounter, according to ESPN.com. "Here is what Subban said, "[Crosby] told me my breath smelled, but I don't know, I used some Listerine before the game so I don't know what he's talking about". When he became healthy again, you knew it wasn't going to take long for the Penguins to yank Marc Andre Fleury. 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.

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For his part, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan believes what's in the past should be left there.

It took all of 91 seconds for Pittsburgh to get its swagger back.

There was already one three-day break in the series, with Game Two here played May 31 and Game Three played in Nashville on June 3. Although the Penguins won the first two games, Nashville controlled the play and Pittsburgh relied on Matt Murray to deliver them wins.

"Sometimes just every game tends to take on its own identity", he said. I think we've got to play determined. Probably too much. But late in the first period of Game 5, Crosby and Subban found themselves together behind the Pittsburgh net. Crosby then got on top of Subban and used his right hand, and eventually left glove, to repeatedly push Subban's head into the ice.

"I think we're going to expect their best hockey in their rink", Predators forward James Neal said.

In fact, the Predators were pleased overall with their play at PPG Paints Arena despite surrendering nine total goals in Games 1 and 2. He had 13 points (4 G, 9 A) in the past 10 games and ranks second in the postseason with 27 points. He's stopped just 34 of 45 in Pittsburgh during the series.

Juuse Saros came on in relief of Rinne to start the 2nd, but he didn't fare much better. Jake Guentzel's second period assist gave him 21 points in the playoffs, tying him with fellow rookies Dino Ciccarelli and Ville Leino for the most ever by a freshman. Sidney Crosby, who was particularly strong early in the game, had three assists.

When Hainsey, who waited 907 regular-season games before reaching the playoffs for the first time this season, tapped in a pass from Malkin to make it 6-0, the stage was set for the Penguins to return to familiar territory.