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5 Keys: Predators at Penguins, Game 5

Goalie Matt Murray starts for Pittsburgh; coach Peter Laviolette wants desperation from Nashville

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

PREDATORS at PENGUINS

8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports

Best-of-7 series is tied 2-2

 

PITTSBURGH -- After winning two games at home, the Nashville Predators will attempt to maintain that momentum on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Predators and Penguins each have won twice at home through four games. Pittsburgh would like to continue that trend in Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, when Nashville will look for a third straight victory before heading home for Game 6.

Here are 5 keys for Game 5:

 

1. Penguins' goalie situation

For the first time in his NHL career, goalie Matt Murray had two straight lackluster starts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After allowing five goals on 33 shots in Game 3, he surrendered three on 25 shots in Game 4.

Though Murray will start Game 5, by losing consecutive starts for the first time in 30 career NHL playoff games he allowed his standing as Pittsburgh's No. 1 goalie to be questioned.

With how well Marc-Andre Fleury played in the first two rounds, a bounce-back effort could solidify Murray's position as the series nears its end.

"I know that Matt is excited to play tonight," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He certainly has had success here at home."

Including the regular season, Murray is 21-3-2 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .928 save percentage at PPG Paints Arena.

 

2. Can Pekka Rinne stay hot?

Like Murray, Rinne has struggled on the road; he allowed eight goals on 36 shots in the first two games of the Final. However, he responded well in the next two games.

Rinne made 50 saves on 52 shots in Games 3 and 4 and has seemed to find his footing after a shaky start to the Final. If that continues in Game 5, Pittsburgh could struggle to score again.

"If he sees every puck, he's going to stop every puck," Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm said.

Video: Rinne, Predators' defense shut down Penguins

 

3. Pittsburgh reuniting 'Sid and the Kids'

Right wing Conor Sheary is expected to move from the fourth line to the first next to center Sidney Crosby and left wing Jake Guentzel. Sheary has six points (one goal, five assists) in the playoffs after finishing with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games during his second NHL season.

Sheary was most impactful with Crosby and Guentzel during the regular season. By reuniting that line, the Penguins hope to receive a spark.

"We've struggled a little bit in the playoffs," Sheary said. "I obviously got moved off that line, but hopefully we can find that chemistry again."

Video: Crosby vs. Fisher turning into premier matchup

 

4. Nashville remaining desperate

Although the Predators have seemingly built some momentum, coach Peter Laviolette doesn't think that will carry them in Game 5.

Though the Predators are coming off two straight wins, Laviolette said he still thinks they should be more desperate than the Penguins. If that turns out to be true, he thinks they could take a 3-2 series lead.

"Usually desperation wins the day," Laviolette said. "If you have a team that's got momentum and a team that's got desperation, for me anyway, the scarier team is the one that's got desperation."

 

5. More from Phil Kessel

Kessel has yet to score a goal through four games this series. If Evgeni Malkin is correct, that will change in Game 5.

After Pittsburgh's practice Wednesday, Malkin predicted Kessel would score in Game 5. He had some quality chances in the past three games after being held without a shot in Game 1 but failed to get any of his nine shots past Rinne.

Kessel could help the Penguins retake the series lead if he's able to break out Thursday.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm5: Kessel rips a one-timer for PPG

 

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Colton Sissons --Pontus Aberg

Viktor Arvidsson -- Mike Fisher -- James Neal

Austin Watson -- Calle Jarnkrok -- Craig Smith

Harry Zolnierczyk -- Frederick Gaudreau -- Colin Wilson

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Matt Irwin -- Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Vernon Fiddler, Anthony Bitetto, Brad Hunt, Vladislav Kamenev, Marek Mazanec, PA Parenteau, Petter Granberg, Miikka Salomaki

Injured: Ryan Johansen (acute compartment syndrome), Kevin Fiala (fractured left femur)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Jake Guentzel -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary

Scott Wilson -- Evgeni Malkin -- Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz -- Matt Cullen -- Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin -- Carter Rowney -- Patric Hornqvist

Brian Dumoulin -- Ron Hainsey

Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Matt Murray

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Chad Ruhwedel, Tom Kuhnhackl, Mark Streit, Josh Archibald, Oskar Sundqvist, Cameron Gaunce, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Derrick Pouliot, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon, David Warsofsky, Frank Corrado, Kevin Porter, Garrett Wilson, Tom Sestito, Tristan Jarry, Sean Maguire

Injured: Kris Letang (neck surgery), Nick Bonino (lower body)

 

Status report

Wilson likely will return for the Predators after missing the first four games of this series with an undisclosed injury. He skated on the fourth line during an optional morning skate. Parenteau told NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti he is out of the lineup. … Bonino (lower body) will be a game-time decision, Sullivan said. He did not participate in practice Wednesday or an optional morning skate Thursday.

 

Who's hot

Gaudreau has scored one goal in each of his past two games and in three of the four in the Final. He made his playoff debut in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. … Crosby scored Pittsburgh's only goal in Game 4. He is second on the Penguins with 24 playoff points (eight goals, 16 assists), two behind Malkin.

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