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Rinne stars as Predators even up Stanley Cup Final

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NASHVILLE — The Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-three, and definitely coming back to the Music City.

The Nashville Predators cemented both of those on Monday night, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece.

Calle Jarnkrok, Frederick Gaudreau, Viktor Arvidsson and Mattias Ekholm scored for the Preds who, for the second straight contest, put forth a diverse and balanced offensive attack. In Game 1, Nashville had nine different skaters register a point.

Tonight, it was 12.

That wasn’t the only theme carried over from Saturday’s tilt. Just like he did in Game 3, Pekka Rinne again came up big in goal, allowing just one goal on 24 shots.

The Finnish tender has completely turned his series around after a rough opening in Pittsburgh. His save percentage over the first two games was a ghastly .778.

Over the last two, it’s .961.

Rinne was at his absolute finest in the second period, turning aside all eight shots faced, none more difficult than this sequence of stops on Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel:

Crosby was the lone Penguin to beat Rinne on the night, converting a nice breakaway chance late in the opening frame for his first goal of the Cup Final. The Pittsburgh captain was a going concern throughout, and had his best game of the series.

But it wasn’t enough.

Several of Crosby’s mates will want to forget the two games in Nashville ever happened. Phil Kessel failed to score a single point. As did Evgeni Malkin. Collectively, the Penguins could only generate two goals, went o-fer on the power play and were out-shot in both contests.

But the Pens will be hopeful the narrative of this series continues — the one in which the home team has consistently held serve, and won every game.

And so, back to the Steel City we go.

And then we’re right back in Nashville.

Notes…

Gaudreau became just the second player in NHL history to score the first three goals of his career in the Cup Final. The other was Chicago’s John Harms, who did it in 1944…Nashville now has the best home record in the playoffs, a 9-1 mark. The Preds have outscored opponents 34-15 in those games…The Preds also became the first team since 2011 to rally from an 0-2 series deficit and even things up. The last team to do it, the 2011 Boston Bruins, went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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