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Coach's analysis: Jake Guentzel of Penguins changed tone of Game 2

Former Blues coach Davis Payne says rookie's late first-period goal shifted momentum against Predators

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Davis Payne to break down the action. Payne will be checking in throughout the series.

Payne, 46, was coach of the St. Louis Blues from 2010-2011. The Blues were 67-55-15 under Payne.

He joined the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant on Darryl Sutter's staff in the summer of 2012 and was with the Kings until April. He was on the Kings' coaching staff during their Stanley Cup championship run in 2014.

 

PITTSBURGH -- The tenor of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators shifted abruptly with the late first-period goal by Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel, according to former St. Louis Blues coach Davis Payne.

Pittsburgh took advantage of the change in momentum and went on to defeat the Predators 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Guentzel scored with 3:24 left in the first.

"That first goal: It finds the seven hole," Payne said Wednesday. "It's a save [Predators goalie Pekka Rinne] has got to have. It really changed the whole dynamic of the first period. Nashville played a great first period and could have been up more than 1-0 and should have been up, minimum 1-0, going into the locker room. Now they go in tied 1-1.

"You haven't lost ground, but you haven't gained any. You don't feel as good about yourself. I felt any time there were breakdowns, [Rinne] could have bailed them out in some of these situations."

Pittsburgh has the ability to pull away in a hurry. That particular skill set has been evident early on in the Final.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel threads a rebound by Rinne

"You look at how Pittsburgh piled up some goals in Game 1 in the first period in about a five-minute span," Payne said. "They scored three in a three-minute span here (3:18) in the third [Wednesday].

"You've got to be stopping some of these."

Game 2 was a story of one goaltender's struggles and another's success. Payne thought Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who made 37 saves, was sharp in Game 2 and took note of his measured presence.

"He made the first save and was just really calm and in a high-percentage position for the second save," Payne said. "There was no chaos around him nor did he create any chaos.

"For his team, that's exactly what they needed. Nashville got the jump on him. He calmed it down every chance he could. He gave them exactly what they needed. A chance to allow them to deal with the energy Nashville was playing with. 

"It allowed them to deal with Nashville's forecheck and by the time they got into the third period, Pittsburgh started winning some battles along the boards."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel buries a rebound for second

It went beyond winning the physical battles, Payne said.

"Pittsburgh is very content to put the puck along the wall and have their wingers win those battles and have speed coming underneath it to create rush opportunities," he said. "By the time the third period came along, Pittsburgh started winning those.

"Up until that point, it was Nashville's control of that situation that allowed them to control the game. Nashville is going to come down on outlets and they're going to take away possession plays. You have a tough time breaking the puck out against them." 

There was one common thread in Game 2: Strong penalty-killing from both teams. Nashville went 0-for-4 and Pittsburgh 0-for-7 on the power play.

"I thought the penalty kill on both teams was really quite good," Payne said. "Pittsburgh made some good adjustments in terms of entry into the zone. But beyond that, they spent a lot of time passing the puck around the outside."

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

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