The Hockey News - - The First Word -

BASE­BALL’S BEST pitch­ers have a unique abil­ity to pull out vic­to­ries on days they’re throw­ing junk. Great quar­ter­backs can struggle but win a game with a mag­nif­i­cent drive in the fourth quar­ter. And a hockey team with a cham­pi­onship pedi­gree can play dread­fully, go ex­actly 37 min­utes with­out record­ing a shot on goal and rely on pure tal­ent to sur­vive. The Pitts­burgh Pen­guins may look back and shake their heads, won­der­ing how they pos­si­bly won Game 1. They ben­e­fit­ted from a called-back P.K. Sub­ban goal in the first pe­riod that turned the tide of the game, they scored on a 5-on-3 ad­van­tage, and they were com­plicit in Pekka Rinne, one of the best goalies on the planet, post­ing a save per­cent­age of .636. “None of us in our dress­ing room are fooled by the score tonight,” said Pen­guins coach Mike Sul­li­van. Weird­est. Game. Ever. Pitts­burgh scored with 17 sec­onds re­main­ing in the first when Rinne di­rected a re­bound off Preda­tors de­fense­man Mat­tias Ekholm, put­ting the Pen­guins up 3-0. The Pens then went the equiv­a­lent of al­most two pe­ri­ods with­out an­other shot be­fore Jake Guentzel drilled the dag­ger into the Preds with 3:37 re­main­ing in the game, break­ing a tie af­ter Nashville had roared back to make it 3-3. Af­ter fac­ing the pas­sive-check­ing Ot­tawa Se­na­tors in the East fi­nal, the Pen­guins looked flum­moxed try­ing to crack the Preda­tors, who left no gaps and were on them ev­ery time they touched the puck. But the players the Pen­guins dressed for Game 1 owned a com­bined 22 Cup rings. The Preda­tors had a com­bined to­tal of zero, with only cap­tain Mike Fisher hav­ing played in a fi­nal. Ex­pe­ri­ence mat­tered, and the Pens would call on it to sum­mon a better ef­fort in Game 2.

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