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.
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.
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.