Fri, Jun 02, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Penguins take 2-0 lead in Cup Final

BARRAGE:The defending champions beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne three times in a little over three minutes in the third period to run away with a 4-1 win

AP, PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania

Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins, top, scores past Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, left, in the first period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

By coach Peter Laviolette’s math, the Nashville Predators have been pretty good for all but 10 minutes of the Stanley Cup Final.

It is not much. Unless you are playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then it is too much.

Way too much.

The defending Stanley Cup champions on Wednesday needed just over three minutes at the start of the third period to turn a taut Game 2 into a runaway, beating Pekka Rinne three times in a 4-1 victory to inch closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back titles.

The barrage started with Jake Guentzel.

Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraska-born rookie provided the winner in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third period for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs.

“It’s crazy,” said Guentzel, who has an NHL rookie record five game-winning goals in the post-season. “You can’t even put into words what it feels, but we know the ultimate goal is two more wins and they’re going to be tough to get.”

Only if Rinne turns back into Rinne.

The 34-year-old spent the first three rounds of the playoffs helping carry Nashville to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Now he is the biggest reason the Predators head back to “Smashville” for Game 3 tomorrow reeling.

After giving up four goals on 11 shots in Game 1, he allowed four more on 25 shots in Game 2. He was pulled when Evgeni Malkin ended Pittsburgh’s surge with his ninth of the playoffs 3 minutes, 28 seconds into the third period.

Rinne entered the series with a .947 save percentage in the post-season. Against Pittsburgh, it is at .777 and he remains winless in his career against the Penguins in games he has started.

“The limited chances they’ve had they’ve done a good job,” Rinne said. “Overall, these two games, like I said, it’s disappointing to be down 2-0, but we have to be feeling still positive with the way we played as a whole and creating chances.”

Asked twice afterward if he was committed to starting Rinne tomorrow, Laviolette stressed Rinne has been “terrific,” adding that there are plenty of things the Predators can do better in front of him, like stopping the odd-man rushes that allowed the Penguins to take charge.

“There’s a stretch they’re able to gain some momentum, able to capitalize and be opportunistic, and that swung two games in their favor,” Laviolette said.

Pontus Aberg scored the lone goal for the Predators , who were once again undone by a sudden barrage from the NHL’s highest-scoring team, though they have not lost faith in Rinne.

Defenseman P.K. Subban said the team was “extremely confident” about the prospect of going home, where the Predators are 7-1 during the playoffs.

“We’re going to win the next game and then we’ll see what happens from there,” Subban said.

Malkin disagreed.

“When we score one, we don’t stop,” Malkin said. “We want to score more. The first shift in the third period, we score. We want more. It’s our game. Never stop.”

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