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Stanley Cup Final

Key moment, Game 3: Penalty, quick goals start Predators surge

Goalie Pekka Rinne also fuels second-period turnaround vs. Penguins

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators won Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final 5-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, but the score is not a fair indication of how stressful the victory was for the home team and its fans.

The Predators were down 1-0 after the first period when the Penguins scored an early goal on Pekka Rinne and managed to tame the raucous Bridgestone Arena crowd.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Penguins series coverage | Rinne rebounds for Predators in Game 3 win]

 

That all changed in the second period, when the game turned on a penalty, two quick Nashville goals - 42 seconds apart -- and two big saves from the Predators' embattled goalie.

That sequence is a big reason why the Predators are only down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). Here is a breakdown of what happened:

 
4:13, second period

The puck is cleared from the Predators zone and is loose near the Penguins blue line. Forward Harry Zolnierczyk, playing for the first time in the series, is chasing Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz to the puck. Zolnierczyk is hit along the boards by Schultz but manages to squeeze past him, and the two of them lock arms, battling for position. Schultz is called for holding.

"When Harry comes in the lineup, he brings speed, he brings energy, he brings physicality," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "That was a perfect example of it. He put the puck to an area, tried to get a step on the guy, and forced him to take a penalty."

 
5:51

Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm has the puck at the point and sends it along the sidewall to forward Calle Jarnkrok. Defenseman Roman Josi is set up at the top of the opposite faceoff circle, but Penguins forwards Matt Cullen and Carter Rowney have their sticks in the passing lane, though Rowney is cheating a little bit toward Predators forward James Neal in the slot.

That is the room Jarnkrok needs to find a lane to get the puck to Josi, who hesitates a moment to settle the puck down and blasts a slap shot that tips off the glove of Rowney and past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray on the short side to tie the game 1-1.

"I saw he was kind of open over there and he wanted the puck, so I tried to give it to him," Jarnkrok said. "It worked out this time."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Josi hammers home slapper for PPG

 
6:33

Josi has the puck in the Predators zone and finds forward Austin Watson with a pass in the neutral zone. Watson immediately chips the puck ahead to forward Frederick Gaudreau, who is arriving at the Penguins blue line with speed but still manages to bat the puck out of the air and onto his stick.

Gaudreau enters the Penguins zone, cuts to the middle of the high slot and fires a shot past Penguins defenseman Ian Cole and past Murray high on the glove side to make it 2-1.

"It was a good look by [Josi] to hit me coming out of our end and I was really just trying to get the red line, but they closed off so I chipped it to the middle," Watson said. "Freddy had a lot of speed and he did the rest."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Gaudreau snaps in wrister from slot

 
7:12

As the Josi goal is being announced, the Penguins move the puck out of their zone and up to forward Phil Kessel, who enters the Predators zone and shoots low to the stick side of Rinne.

The rebound goes right off Rinne's pad and out into the slot, where Penguins forward Chris Kunitz is rushing the net, just like he did on the winning goal in Game 2, scored by Jake Guentzel. Except this time, Rinne gets his blocker on Kunitz's shot off the rebound and keeps the puck out of his net.

"It was a key moment tonight," Rinne said. "Last game they connected the same way."

Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Rinne shuts the door on Kessel, Kunitz

Predators defenseman P.K. Subban tried to block the Kunitz attempt and wound up sliding right in front of Rinne. After the save, Subban turned and congratulated Rinne, though he said afterward he couldn't repeat what he told his goaltender.

"He was pumped up," Rinne said. "He tried to block that shot, tried to make a great play. I think he was just like, 'Damn right.'"

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