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Stanley Cup Final

Jake Guentzel of Penguins scores winner again in Game 2 against Predators

Magic carpet ride continues in Stanley Cup Final for forward, who sets record for U.S.-born rookies

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Forward Jake Guentzel watched the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the San Jose Sharks to win the 2016 Stanley Cup championship. He quickly shifted his focus to training camp that fall.

"He sat there last year on the couch," said Mike Guentzel, who is Jake's father and an associate hockey coach at the University of Minnesota. "He's like, 'Geez, they win the Cup and it's going to be hard to make the team.'"

A year later, the Penguins are two victories from another Stanley Cup championship after a 4-1 victory against the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

This year, though, Guentzel has played an enormous role.

Guentzel, 22, scored twice, including the game-winner to help the Penguins take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. He also scored the game-winning goal in Game 1 on Monday.

His five game-winning goals this postseason is an NHL rookie record. He has 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 21 games.

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

The NHL rookie record for goals scored in the postseason has stood since 1981, when Dino Ciccarelli scored 14 for the Minnesota North Stars. Guentzel moved past Jeremy Roenick (11 with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1990) and Brad Marchand (11, Boston Bruins in 2011) on Wednesday and surpassed Roenick's record of most goals by a United States-born rookie in the postseason.

"It's crazy," Guentzel said. "You can't even put it into words what it feels like."

His teammates, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and his father found the words for him. Guentzel found the smallest of openings when he put the puck in under the arm of Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne at 16:36 of the first period to make it 1-1. His second goal, the game-winner, came 10 seconds into the third.

Guentzel's second goal was one second shy of the fastest to begin any period in Stanley Cup Final history. Montreal Canadiens forward Brian Skrudland scored nine seconds into overtime in Game 2 against the Calgary Flames in 1986.

"He's amazing," Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin said. "Some games he plays quiet, you don't see him but at the right time, he is here. He's a great shooter guy. He's very smart. He gets great chances to score. He has a small chance, he scores."

Guentzel went eight games without scoring before the Cup Final. He was worried about being scratched for Game 1.

Less than a week later, Guentzel has entered the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the playoffs.

Game 3 will be played at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"It's just magical. I don't know what you say," Mike Guentzel said. "We were hoping Jake would play 5-10 games this year. He got called up and he scored his first shift. He scored his first NHL playoff game. He scores his first Stanley Cup Final game.

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

"You can't even write this up; [you're not] dreaming this up in your wildest dreams. I'm happy for Jake. A couple of days ago, he was worried about being in the lineup. Now he's got 12 goals in the NHL playoffs. You read Twitter and you see the pictures. He's broken this record, he's broken that record."

The beauty of Guentzel's game is he can score in a variety of fashions. He has scored playing with Penguins center Sidney Crosby and without him. Even in the same game.

"When the plays are there, his instincts will take over," Sullivan said. "He's a real talented kid."

Sullivan said they made adjustments, noting it was Guentzel's first long playoff run.

"We just thought if we cut his minutes, we'd get more productive minutes from him," Sullivan said. "I think he's had an opportunity to get a little bit of a second wind. He's getting his legs back. I think his confidence is there."

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