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Stanley Cup Final

Coach's analysis: Predators should be encouraged entering Game 2

Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn believes Penguins were fortunate to win Stanley Cup Final opener

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Perry Pearn to break down the action from the Predators' perspective. Pearn will be checking in throughout the Final.

Pearn, 65, has worked 22 seasons as an NHL assistant with the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. He began his NHL career as an assistant in Winnipeg in 1995-96.

Pearn also has a gold medal as coach (1993) and two golds as an assistant (1990, 1991) with Canada's national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

 

PITTSBURGH -- Perry Pearn has coached for a long time and isn't sure he's seen anything like Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

The Predators lost 5-3 but came back down 3-0 after the first period at PPG Paints Arena on Monday. Pittsburgh won despite having 12 shots on goal.

 

[RELATED: Opportunistic Guentzel lifts Penguins to Game 1 victory | Penguins realize they must improve]

 

Game 2 is here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"It's probably one of the strangest playoff games I've seen, never mind it's the Stanley Cup Final," Pearn said. "It's hard to explain how a team can go that length of time (37:00) without getting a shot on goal, and then to come up with that many goals on the number of shots they had."

Despite the disappointing ending, Pearn said the Predators will find plenty of encouragement from Game 1.

"They've got to take some consolation in how well they defended," he said. "And I'm sure Pittsburgh recognizes they're fairly fortunate to get that win. You can never know for sure from the outside, but watching that game a second time, I thought there's probably a bit of a hangover for Pittsburgh after the double-overtime game against [the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final].

"I know from past experience that having too many days between series is not good for any team. And Nashville had extra time off to start the series so maybe those two things combined to create a stranger start to this series. But that's speculation only from me.

"Overall, I thought the Predators came in and played very much the way they played against [the Anaheim Ducks]. They were really aggressive with their forecheck, their 'D' were aggressive pinching and holding pucks in."

How did the Penguins' low shot total affect the Predators?

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm1: Malkin nets PPG on blistering slapper

"I'm sure early on, in the second period, Nashville is looking up at the clock and the score, they're down 3-0 for a while and kind of saying to themselves, 'How can this be?'" Pearn said. "I think in some ways it would have been a little bit of a negative drag. But it's a credit to them and it comes from the confidence they've developed earlier in the playoffs in their ability to come back.

"Certainly, a lot of teams in that situation would have lost their belief."

The Predators' third-period rally may have inadvertently brought a vulnerability to their game that cost them in the end, Pearn said.

"The thing about that fourth goal -- I've been part of games where this has happened, and it's part of the reason the NHL's stats are so skewed toward the team ahead at the end of the second period -- is that you work and work to get back in a game, and that was Nashville pressing, pressing in Game 1," Pearn said. "Then they got the two goals in the third to tie it and the sense on the bench is, 'Now we're going to win.' You want that feeling, but with that sometimes comes being a little bit overaggressive in certain situations.

"You sometimes slide out of the mentality that got you back into the game, like getting pucks behind the other team's defense and creating turnovers and drawing penalties."

Game 1 also produced plenty of talk about Predators goalie Pekka Rinne allowing four goals on 11 shots.

"It was a factor at times in the Western Conference Final, and [Penguins forward Jake] Guentzel's goal is one of those goals from an area that's probably just outside the prime scoring area but that's an area where Rinne has seemed a little bit vulnerable," Pearn said. "You can't say he hasn't been good in the playoffs, but he seems to be vulnerable on some of those outside shots when he seems to be not quite as set in the position he should be. Still Guentzel's shot was a pretty good one.

"Looking ahead, I don't think it's going to bother Rinne. He had the one game in the Anaheim series where he wasn't as sharp (allowed four goals on 26 shots in a 5-3 loss in Game 2), two goals that he probably wanted back, but he bounced right back so I expect he will again.

"On Monday, despite what appears in the stats, I don't think he had a bad game. It's part of the strangeness of how the game unfolded."

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