PPG PAINTS ARENA MAY 29, 2017
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.