After a great start, the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up five unanswered goals to drop Game 3 to the Nashville Predators 5-1.
Jake Guentzel had the lone goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the first period when he put in the rebound from an Ian Cole slapshot.
Nashville’s Offense Explodes
Nashville tied the game in the second period with a Roman Josi power play goal. Less than a minute later, Frederick Gaudreau gave the Preds a 2-1 lead. James Neal got the Preds’ third goal late in the second when he chipped the puck in after it bounced off the side of the net.
The Predators padded their lead at 4:54 of the third period, when Chris Kunitz fumbled a puck that bounced off of Phil Kessel’s skate. This led to a Craig Smith breakaway, and he put a wrister past goalie Matt Murray to make it 4-1 Nashville.
Mattias Ekholm used blueliner Brian Dumoulin as a screen to score the Predators’ fifth goal of the night on their second power play opportunity.
Special Teams Cost Pens
The Penguins failed to score on the power play, ending the night at 0/3 with just one power play shot. The first power play the Pens had looked good; they held the zone and had good puck movement, despite not generating any shots. The second and third power plays, however, were atrocious. The Penguins were barely able to enter, much less maintain, the zone.
Nashville, on the other hand, was 2/3 on the power play and had two power play shots. The Predators did not score on their final power play opportunity, which occurred with less than three minutes left in the third period.
The Penguins have to improve special teams. The Pens found a way to win in games 1 and 2 despite poor special teams, but it cost them in game 3.
Looking to Game 4
It was much speculated beforehand that the Penguins would lose game 3. The Predators would have home ice advantage; Nashville had never before hosted a Stanley Cup Final game, and the atmosphere was expected to be raucous. The Pens’ only option is to put game 3 behind them and look ahead.
Of particular importance to the Penguins in game 4 will be special teams. The power play has been extremely poor for the Penguins for several games now. In game 2, the Pens had seven power play opportunities, and failed to score on all of them.
“I know we can play better,” leading playoff scorer Evgeni Malkin said of the Pens’ power play in game 2. “We’re not happy…each power play is very important.”
The Penguins have done a better job of generating shots since their horrible 12-shot game 1 showing. While they have still been outshot by Nashville in games 2 and 3, the Penguins have a remarkable record of 6-1 when being outshot by 10 or more in the 2017 playoffs.
Under head coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins have been excellent in games following a loss. The Penguins will get the chance to rebound in game 4 on Monday night in Nashville.