–The Pittsburgh Penguins built up a 3-0 lead against Nashville, but they watched it evaporate in the third period. Despite going more than 37 minutes without a shot on goal, the Pens still managed to come away with a win. Check out the highlights from Game 1 by clicking the video at the top of the page.
–The NHL will be playing two preseason games in China next fall, as the Canucks and Kings will faceoff twice in Shanghai and Beijing. Even though those games are still four months away, the fans in China couldn’t be more excited to attend these contests. “There are a lot of fans of the NHL that want to see games. They want to see the players. They want to take pictures with the players.” (NHL.com)
–Here’s a story you probably didn’t expect to see today. Nello Ferrara was the heir to a candy empire, but he decided he wanted a career in pro hockey instead. The problem, was that he wasn’t very talented. But through a few sneaky tricks and a strong desire to succeed, he carved out an 11-year career in the pro ranks. (New York Times)
–The Score breaks down the good, bad and ugly from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Nashville may have lost the game, but their defense got plenty of credit for not allowing a shot for over 37 minutes. The offside review on the P.K. Subban goal fell into the bad category. (The Score)
–Predators GM David Poile looked back on some of the huge trades that helped get his team to the final. Believe it or not, if Montreal and Nashville weren’t seated next to each other at last year’s GM meetings, the P.K. Subban for Shea Weber swap may not have happened. (Sportsnet)
The Philadelphia Flyers own the second overall pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, which means they’ll get to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. According to CSN Philly’s Tom Dougherty would rather have Patrick because he’s a safer prospect. (CSN Philly)
—Pekka Rinne might be one of the biggest reasons the Predators are in the Stanley Cup Final, but he’s also one of the reasons why they dropped Game 1 to Pittsburgh. Check out these numbers:
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have made a habit this postseason out of struggling through games, getting outplayed for long stretches, and then somehow finding a way to scratch out a win. They did it against Columbus. They did it against Washington. They did it at times against Ottawa.
They did it again on Monday.
It hasn’t always been pretty. It hasn’t always been the way they want to play. Heck, it hasn’t always seemed like a sustainable method for winning.
But here they are after their 5-3 win on Monday night sitting just three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row.
This latest win was perhaps their most absurd the postseason and one of the most bizarre Stanley Cup Final games you will ever see.
They took a three-goal lead after an early Nashville goal was negated on a razor thin offside review, they allowed that three-goal lead to eventually slip away, they managed only 12 shots on goal (the lowest total ever for a winning team in a Stanley Cup Final game) and went an almost unimaginable 37 minutes — nearly two full periods! — without recording a single shot on goal.
The most common question asked after the game simply seemed to be, “how?”
As in, how does a team this good, on this stage, go that long without putting a puck on net?
The most common answer?
They just didn’t play well.
Just ask coach Mike Sullivan.
“We weren’t very good,” said Sullivan. “We weren’t very good. When you’re playing a team like Nashville that has a balanced attack you have to have some pushback, and I don’t think in the second period we had any pushback.
“It seemed like we had a discussion between periods about staying on our toes, and playing the right way, and not trying to defend the lead or sit on the lead, we wanted to go out and try to get the next goal. And this team for the most part is usually pretty good about making sure we continue to play the game the right way. Tonight it wasn’t the case, we just weren’t very good.”
Not very good is probably an understatement.
Other than a five-minute stretch late in the first period where the Penguins were able to score three goals (one on a full two-minute, 5-on-3 power play; another the result of an own-goal off the body of Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm) they spent most of the night defending a relentless Nashville attack while being unable to generate anything against the NHL’s best defense.
The Penguins pointed to not doing enough of the little things to create any sort of a territorial advantage.
“We weren’t hard enough, weren’t skating, just didn’t play the way we normally play or the way we know how,” said defenseman Justin Schultz. “We have to be a lot better the rest of the series.”
Sullivan went into a little more detail.
“I didn’t think we were stiff enough in the battle areas,” said Sullivan. “As far as when we were defending we have to get into peoples bodies, we have to hit and stick, we have to stay engaged.
“It seemed like we were coming off of checks and giving them time and space with a little bit of separation and so we ended up with extended time in our end zone where we had opportunities where if we played a little stiffer we could create separation from the puck and give our guys an opportunity to win a puck battle. So much of this game boils down those thankless jobs, it’s about winning puck battles along the walls and gaining lines and gaining zones and that is how you control territory, if you’re losing your fair share of those it is hard to get to puck the back.”
Forward Conor Sheary, who ended a lengthy goal-scoring drought by scoring his first goal of the playoffs during that five-minute outburst in the first period, acknowledged they may have been a little too comfortable with that early lead.
“We could have been,” said Sheary. “We could have been caught up in that because we didn’t play a great first period but we came out with a 3-0 lead, and we might have come into the locker room a little comfortable, but we’ll move on from that and move forward.”
Still, what’s almost as unbelievable as the Penguins going more than half of a game without recording a shot is the fact they were able to do that and still come away with a win. In a best-of-seven series sometimes you need to steal one, and at this point in the season nobody is going to apologize for the method in which they win.
The Penguins were happy to accept the result but know they can not repeat that performance if they want to keep going.
“Yeah, we’ll take it but we know it wasn’t our best,” said Schultz.
Sullivan was a little bit more direct.
“What I love about about our group is we got a favorable result tonight,” said Sullivan. “But we know we need to be much better in order to continue to get to where we want to go. So none of us in our dressing room are fooled by the score tonight, so that is an important takeaway. We have a mature group, we have great leadership, and they understand it.”
PITTSBURGH — Given all that transpired on Monday night, there were plenty of topics to discuss in the aftermath of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Yet one seemed to rise above the rest.
P.K. Subban’s disallowed goal in the first period — wiped out after Pens head coach Mike Sullivan successfully challenged that Filip Forsberg was offside — was a huge talking point, with several Predators pressed for their thoughts on the matter.
“It never deflated us,” captain Mike Fisher said, when asked if the call took the wind out of Nashville’s sails. “We’ve had that happen twice in one game [versus Anaheim in the Western Conference final].
“It doesn’t change our mindset, but it’s unfortunate — we thought it was a goal. What do you do? From there, we played solid. We just didn’t find that way to win.”
While Fisher said all the right things, it’s hard to suggest the call didn’t have a profound impact on the eventual 5-3 Penguins victory. The Subban goal seemed a just reward for Nashville after a good start, yet it was taken off the board under somewhat dubious circumstances, depending who you ask. (On social media, arguments are still ongoing as to whether video review showed conclusive evidence that Forsberg was offside.)
Fisher’s coach admitted the call changed the tone.
“The impact of that moment, and the chain of events that happened after that — the penalty kills, I think, changed the course of the game,” Peter Laviolette said. “[But] I thought our guys played well, from start to finish. I thought we played a good game. We hate the score, we hate the result, but we move forward.”
There’s another interesting angle in all this. The Pens certainly reaped the benefits from the overturned goal, and not just because it dug them out of a hole. PPG Paints Arena roared with approval upon hearing the announcement — the in-house video board quickly fired up one of those noise meter things — and, shortly thereafter, Pittsburgh exploded for three goals in a 4:11 span.
It was a turning point in a game filled with them. Afterward, Sullivan took time to praise video coordinator Andy Saucier, who was responsible for spearheading the challenge.
“He does a great job,” Sullivan said. “He’s smart. I think he has a really good eye for some of the challenges versus the no challenges. Those timeouts are really important, so we don’t want to use that challenge frivolously. We’re trying to be calculated about it. We’ve sat as a coaching staff at the beginning of the season, and we discussed the criteria so that we’re all on the same page. Sauce does a terrific job for us.”
PITTSBURGH — “It was a weird game,” said Pekka Rinne, pretty much nailing it.
The Nashville Predators had just lost, 5-3, after keeping the Pittsburgh Penguins without a shot for almost two full periods of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Just think about that for a moment.
Consider the odds against it.
Rinne, the Conn Smythe Trophy favorite heading into the series, only saw 11 shots the whole night. Four of them beat him, including one that bounced off his own defenseman to put the Preds down, 3-0, in the first period.
Nashville eventually battled back to tie it at three, thanks to a couple of power-play snipes and an even-strength tally by Frederick Gaudreau. But Jake Guentzel‘s goal at 16:43 of the third, on a shot that broke the Penguins’ unfathomably long stretch without one, proved to be the winner. Minutes later, an empty-netter sealed it for the defending champs.
“At the end of the day, my job is to make the save,” said Rinne, “and at the end of the game I’m disappointed I couldn’t help my team. We showed a lot of character. I thought that we played a great game. I think we have a lot of things that we can take away from this game, a lot of positives.”
Captain Mike Fisher had no idea that his Preds had held the Penguins shotless for 37 minutes, a stretch that went from 19:43 of the first, when Nick Bonino‘s one-handed pass was cleared by Rinne into Mattias Ekholm‘s pads and then into the net, all the way to Guentzel’s winner.
“I knew they weren’t getting too many chances and we were playing pretty strong,” said Fisher. “We found a way to get back in it, but it wasn’t our night.”
“That’s hockey,” said Subban. “That’s just what it is. And if we just play the way we did, minus some of the mistakes that we made, I like our chances. We’ll be better next game, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’re going to be better. … This is going to be a long series.”
Read more: The Penguins know they got away with one