Penguins dominate Predators; one win away from repeating

Pittsburgh is trying to be the first team to repeat as champions since the '97 and '98 Detroit Red Wings

Brayton Wilson
June 09, 2017 - 10:56 am

Photo: Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports

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The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins won consecutive championships was back in the days of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1991 and 1992. This time, the Penguins will look to be the first team since the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back championships.

Pittsburgh got one step closer to repeating on Thursday as they beat up the Nashville Predators 6-0 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena.

It was all-Penguins early as the Predators came out flat, giving Pittsburgh an early powerplay just 50-seconds into the game. It didn't take long for Justin Schultz to get Pittsburgh on the board as he let a one-timer go that snuck its way through Pekka Rinne just 1:31 into the game. The shot managed to find its way through the legs of Austin Watson, who screened Rinne, and then through the five-hole of the Nashville goalie.

A little over five minutes later, the Penguins went up 2-0 courtesy of a beautiful backhand goal from Bryan Rust. Rust beat Predators defenseman Matt Irwin into the offensive zone and got into position to receive a pass from Chris Kunitz. Rust then let a backhander go from the slot that beat Rinne top-shelf, glove side for his seventh goal of the postseason.

That goal capped off a run in which the Penguins out-shot the Predators 6-1 in the first 6:43 of the first period.

Things got chippy with about 90-seconds to play in the first period. After Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Predators defenseman P.K. Subban got together in behind the Penguins' net, Crosby throws Subban down to the ice and appears to shove his head into the ice multiple times before play was blown dead. Both players were assessed minor penalties for holding and play resumed with some 4-on-4 action.

With time running out in the period, the Penguins generated one more quality chance with Phil Kessel taking the puck into the offensive zone against Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson gave Kessel too much space with the puck, which allowed Kessel to slow the play down and allow Evgeni Malkin to join the rush. Malkin let a shot go with about 10-seconds to play in the period that re-directed off the stick of Predators defenseman Yannick Weber and over the glove hand of Rinne for his 10th goal of the playoffs.

Heading into the second period, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Rinne for backup goalie Juuse Saros after Rinne gave up three goals on nine shots faced. However, things did not get any better for Nashville.

Just 1:19 into the second period, it was Conor Sheary scoring his second goal of the playoffs off a feed from Crosby along the end-boards. This came on the first shot that Saros faced in the period.

More controversy before the eight-minute mark of the second period as a Penguin threw a water bottle onto the ice after a missed slash from Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm. Under Rule 75 in the NHL rulebook, the Penguins should have been assessed a bench minor for the thrown water bottle during game action but nothing was ever called. Play continued on for a bit, and Pittsburgh ended up taking a 5-0 lead with a goal from Phil Kessel.

It was Crosby who ended up throwing the water bottle onto the ice, then taking the ice for a shift and registering the secondary assist on Kessel's goal. It was Crosby's third assist of the night.

The Penguins added their sixth goal of the night with 3:20 left to play in the second period as Ron Hainsey joined the offensive rush and netted his second goal of the playoffs.

The game got physically out of hand at points down the stretch, which resulted in 100 combined penalty minutes on the night.

Matt Murray ended up turning away all 24 shots he faced for his second shutout of the postseason. Saros struggled in his two periods of play, only stopping 12 of 15 shots faced.

The Penguins can close out the series on Sunday night in Nashville, but the Predators have the home-ice advantage with a 9-1 record at Bridgestone Arena this postseason. Faceoff is at 8 p.m. on Sunday, and you can hear all the action on WGR.

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