Guarantee delivered: Preds thump Pens to make it a series

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NASHVILLE — Predators fans descended on Bridgestone Arena by the thousands, desperate for something to celebrate.

They got it. And how.

Nashville won the biggest hockey game in the city’s history on Saturday night, thumping Pittsburgh 5-1 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, cutting the Penguins’ series lead to two games to one in the process.

Prior to the tilt, Preds d-man P.K. Subban made waves by saying — twice — that Nashville was going to win Game 3. It was a bold proclamation, but one his teammates apparently took to heart as the Preds got contributions from across the board.

Five different skaters — Roman Josi, Frederick Gaudreau, James Neal, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm — found the back of the net, while nine different players had at least one point.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, bounced back with a solid and hugely important effort after getting ventilated in the opening two games. Rinne made 27 stops on the night, getting beat only by Jake Guentzel‘s rebound effort 2:46 into the contest.

Despite that less-than-ideal start, pretty much everything else went Nashville’s way.

The streets outside Bridgestone were filled with roaring onlookers. Inside, the team received a terrific boost from the frenzied fans, who were loud and boisterous throughout. Add it all up, and the Preds continued to prove a daunting foe at home — they’re now 8-1 this postseason at Bridgestone, with that lone loss coming in overtime during the Western Conference Final.

For Pittsburgh, there were few positives.

The Pens failed to match Nashville’s energy level for most of the night. They were out-shot, again, this time by five and gave little to no support to Matt Murray, who at times was under siege. Murray was hung out to dry on a few occasions, especially early in the third period as his teammates surrendered several dangerous scoring chances.

After Smith scored to make it 4-1, Sidney Crosby and Ian Cole gave Murray a stick tap on the pads. The gesture felt half appreciative, half apologetic.

Looking ahead, tonight’s result sets up a tremendous scenario for Monday. With home teams having held serve, the Preds will be confident they can even up the series.

The Pens, meanwhile, will try and flush tonight’s performance, regroup for Game 4, then hopefully head back to Pittsburgh with a shot at finishing the series.

However it all plays out, one thing is certain.

Monday’s going to be a party.

Notes…

It was the first Stanley Cup Final win in franchise history for Nashville… With his goal, Guentzel moved one back of Dino Ciccarelli for the most goals (14) by a rookie in a single playoff… The third period got nasty as the score got out of hand and, as such, the penalty minutes jumped. The two teams combined for 78 penalty minutes, with 70 of those coming in the final frame.