By Sarah Berkowitz
It took the Pittsburgh Penguins only 3:18 to score three times early in the third period, including twice in 15 seconds, to defeat the visiting Nashville Predators 4-1 in game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“I think this team has an inner belief that we can score goals,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’ve provided plenty of evidence for themselves to suggest that. I know our guys believe in their ability to finish, and so it’s about making sure that if we don’t get anything, we try to limit the opportunities of our opponents to the best of our ability.
“We’re going to go through stretches of games where we might get a handful of shifts in a row where we don’t get an opportunity. It’s just about making sure that we continue to try to play the game the right way.”
Pittsburgh leads the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 at Nashville on Saturday.
Jake Guentzel’s second goal made it 2-1 10 seconds into the third after his first tied it 1-1 with 3:24 left in the first. He has three goals in the series, including the game-winning goal in Games 1 and 2.
“It’s crazy,” the 22-year-old rookie said. “You can’t even put into words what it feels [like], but the ultimate goal is two more wins.”
Entering this series, Guentzel had not scored in eight consecutive games. Because of that drought, Sullivan nearly scratched Guentzel in Game 1 on Monday, a 5-3 win, but decided to play him instead of forward Carl Hagelin.
Three days later, Guentzel was again playing on a line with center Sidney Crosby and leading the NHL with 12 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“He’s really smart,” Crosby said. “He has really good hockey sense, so he’s able to read the play. He’s in and around the net all the time. He knows when to get out of there and find a soft area to set up for a pass.”
Scott Wilson made it 3-1 at 3:13 before Evgeni Malkin pushed it to 4-1 on his first shot of the game 15 seconds later. Malkin leads the NHL with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) this postseason.
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was replaced by Juuse Saros after Malkin’s goal. Rinne allowed four goals on 25 shots after giving up four on 11 shots in Game 1.
“Pekka has been terrific this entire playoffs,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think there are things we can do better. All three goals in the third period, we could have done something better. We’re leaving odd-man-numbered rushes. I believe all of them were odd, 3-on-2s and 2-on-1s. It makes it more difficult.”
Matt Murray made 37 saves for Pittsburgh.
Patric Hornqvist scored at 6:48 of the third period, but the goal was overturned after it was ruled Matt Cullenwas offside at 6:40.
Pontus Aberg gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with 7:03 remaining in the first period.
The Predators could have scored earlier during a 5-on-3 after Malkin was called for hooking and Chris Kunitzwent off for cross-checking 9:36 into the game. An interference penalty against Mike Fisher made it 4-on-3 58 seconds later before each of the penalties were killed.
Penguins forward Nick Bonino left after blocking a shot by Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. He missed the final 9:26 of the first period but returned for the second and played the rest of the game.