Jake Guentzel scored the winner with 3:17 remaining in regulation and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Predators by a 5-3 final in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena. The loss is Nashville’s first to start a series in these playoffs, marking the first time they’ve trailed in a series in 2017.
Nashville held the Penguins to just 12 shots on goal on the night – including zero in the second period alone – but Pittsburgh ended up on the winning end of the Predators first Stanley Cup Final contest in franchise history.
“From the way we started and the way we continued on after that, I thought our guys played great,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought we played a good game. We hate the score. We hate the result. But we’ll move forward.”
“For the majority of the game, I really liked the way we played,” Preds forward Colton Sissons said. “We played fast and really hard. Everybody was committed tonight, but a couple lapses defensively against a team like that is dangerous, and they make you pay for it.”
Nashville controlled the play to begin Game One, and they thought they had a 1-0 lead when P.K. Subban wristed a shot past Matt Murray. But Pittsburgh challenged the play for offside, and once the officials determined Filip Forsberg was over the blue line before the puck was, the tides turned.
The Penguins were given a 5-on-3 power play, and Evgeni Malkin fired a shot past Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead. Then it was Conor Sheary who made it 2-0, followed by a Nick Bonino centering feed that went off Mattias Ekholm and into the net for a 3-0 Pittsburgh advantage after one period of play.
Just as they did to start the game, Nashville had the decided edge in offensive chances in the second period, and a power-play tally from Ryan Ellis at the 8:21 mark of the stanza got the Preds on the board. In fact, the Penguins failed to register a single shot in the middle frame.
That trend continued in the third period, and another Nashville power play brought about a Roman Josi snap shot that deflected in off the knee of Colton Sissons to bring the Preds to within one goal. Then, Austin Watson found Frederick Gaudreau in front, and the rookie buried his first-career postseason goal to complete the comeback.
But on Pittsburgh’s first shot in 37 minutes, it was Guentzel who beat Rinne for the game-winner before Bonino added an empty netter to finish it off.
The Predators will now turn their attention to Game Two of the Final, which comes Wednesday night, with an emphasis on keeping the same confidence and resiliency that’s gotten them to this point.
“We’ve stayed positive, regardless of situations because we know we have to play a certain way,” Nashville Captain Mike Fisher said. “We play to our strengths and our identity and whether we’re up or down, that doesn’t change how we play. I think you saw that tonight when we were down 3-0; this team just doesn’t give up. But that being said, it’s a good hockey team. We have to find ways to get wins, and we weren’t quite good enough because we didn’t come out on the good end.”
Predators forward Colin Wilson missed Game One due to injury, but Captain Mike Fisher and forward Craig Smith both returned to the Nashville lineup on Monday.
Fisher recorded an assist on Ryan Ellis’s goal, his first point of the postseason. He also picked up an assist on Gaudreau’s tally.
Pittsburgh failed to register a shot in the second period, the first time since official tracking for shots on goal began in 1957 that a team went without a shot in a full period of a Stanley Cup Final game.
Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final comes Wednesday night in Pittsburgh before the series shifts to Nashville for Games Three and Four on Saturday and next Monday, respectively.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report