The Buzzer: Penguins, Predators even things up

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2017 Stanley Cup Finalists tie up their series

Penguins 3, Capitals 1 (Series tied 2-2)

If the Bruins can win Game 4 tomorrow, than all four of the second-round series could be tied 2-2, at least for a time. For all the jokes at Washington’s expense, these Alex OvechkinSidney Crosby Era series tend to go long, with two extended to seven and one finishing in six. This one will go at least six after Jake Guentzel, Crosby, and the Penguins powered through to win this one. Guentzel scored the opening goal and iced it with an empty-netter, while Evgeni Malkin‘s goal survived the dreaded review process to stand as the game-winner. There was also some fisticuffs between Kris Letang and T.J. Oshie and an injury scare for Matt Murray.

Predators 2, Jets 1 (Series tied 2-2)

Game 3 was a wild one that felt “defense and goalie optional” at times. One of the promising things about this series is that both Nashville and Winnipeg can really clamp down when they make a point to do so and also get a few bounces/saves. Pekka Rinne, P.K. Subban, and the rest of the Predators showed that they can hang with the Jets, and just importantly, nurture a small lead into a hard-nosed win. Read more about the Preds’ Game 4 win here and also enjoy Rinne’s remarkable save.

Three Stars

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators – After a rough outing in Game 3 that even included an ill-advised penalty, Rinne was fantastic in Game 4. Holding the Jets to one goal is an accomplishment in itself, especially since he blanked them for about 59 of 60 regulation minutes. Rinne also was perfect at even strength (29-for-29 there, 31 of 32 saves overall). This wasn’t just a matter of stopping “quantity over quality” shots.

If the highlight reel stops aren’t enough, consider this heat map via Natural Stat Trick:

Not an easy night in net, but Rinne cooled the Jets.

2. Jake Guentzel and 3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins – We might as well lump these two together as the other two stars of the night. Guentzel gets the nod in this case because he scored two goals while Crosby collected two assists (on both of Guentzel’s goals). One could see it go the other way – number 87 often does a lot of work to set up his linemates – but either way, it was an impressive showing. In fact, the Penguins might be calling upon these two to do a little too much.

There are some other decent candidates from tonight’s games. P.K. Subban scored the game-winner for Nashville and continues to be a workhorse on defense. After rough Game 3 outings, all four of the goalies managed solid-to-strong work in their Game 4 starts.

Rinne, Guentzel, and Crosby were the three biggest difference-makers, though.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Factoids

Guentzel is really doing some incredible things. Crosby boosts his numbers considerably, but spin it whatever way you’d like, this is impressive:

P.K. Subban is a playoff performer, and not just because of his three-game goal streak or the stat below. These types of facts don’t hurt, either:

Tough night for Alex Ovechkin, which probably helps to explain Washington only managed three SOG in the third period despite the Penguins’ lead. There were other signs of effort, however, including seven hits by Ovechkin.

Friday’s games

Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins, Game 4, 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN
San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights, Game 5, 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.