Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Guentzel shines again as Pens surge to Game Two win

Vera Richards | 02 June, 2017, 02:07

Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates his goal against Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the third period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Pittsburgh.

Pontus Aberg has given the Predators a 1-0 lead in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.

After scoring the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, helping the Penguins escape with a win in one of the crazier playoff games in recent memory, he played the role of hero again on Wednesday in the Penguins' 4-1 Game 2 win by scoring two more goals, including another game-winner.

After Guentzel's go-ahead goal, Scott Wilson scored at the 3:13 mark on a shot that deflected off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and Evgeni Malkin fired in a wrist shot 15 seconds later. Pittsburgh had 12 shots in the first period of Game 2, which equalled its total of shots from Game 1.

Rinne went into the final with the stingiest numbers in net this postseason.

But the rapid offensive outburst, a stark contrast to Pittsburgh's slow start that featured no shots from Crosby or Malkin, still pushed Rinne from the game and shifted momentum entirely in Steel City's favor. His goal 10 seconds into the third period went down as the game victor, which gives him five during this playoff run.

Guentzel scored on a rebound 10 seconds into the third off the pad of Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. That gave Pittsburgh as many shots as it had in Game 1.

The 22-year-old Guentzel finished with two goals to give him an NHL-high 12 during the playoffs, the second-most by a rookie in postseason history. "I think his hockey sense kind of allows those skills to really be shown". Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraskan provided the victor 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.

When asked how the Predators can turn relative unheralded players into top notch NHLers nearly overnight, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette gave a lot of the credit to the Nashville scouts.

An unheralded third round pick who grew up in Minnesota, Guentzel also sits directly to Crosby's left in the Penguins dressing room, a purposeful move by head coach Mike Sullivan, who likes his rookies to watch and learn from the captain.

"One of strengths of our team this season is that we've been able to adapt and find ways to score", Penguins center Matt Cullen said. "We're going back home, we're going to win the next game, and then we'll see what happens from there". "You look back to good games and make yourself feel good. We get to go out and play the game we love on the biggest stage".

So the Predators said they could have been better, all of them, and Rinne said his confidence was undamaged, and now they have a mountain to climb. Not to take anything away from the Penguins, but the goals given up in these situations have been anything but highlight-reel worthy. "When the plays are there, (Guentzel's) instincts will take over".

Then came the third period, when everything changed - for Rinne, for Nashville, for this series.

Country singer Alan Jackson - Mr. It's Five O'clock Somewhere - will play a free live concert outside the arena before Game 3, where the Predators are 7-1 in these playoffs.

Nashville, which trails the series 1-0 despite dominating Game 1, is keeping things status quo.

The last team to win the Stanley Cup without a standout No. 1 centre was the Anaheim Ducks and Andy McDonald centred their first line. At the very least, he needs to go to a place where Jake Guentzel doesn't exist. The Predators now have to win four of the next five games to win the Stanley Cup, and that's all. The most frustrating aspect about playing the Penguins, as Rinne and Nashville have discovered, is that although they can make mistakes and bungle chances and put their own goalie in untenable positions, all those problems can be rendered irrelevant by a few swipes of a stick.

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