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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins' quick-strike ability leads to Game 2 win against Predators

Pittsburgh scores three goals in 3:28 early in third period to take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Three goals in 3:28. The last two were separated by 15 seconds.

This was vintage Pittsburgh Penguins at the start of the third period. This was exactly why the Penguins have gained a reputation in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs for being opportunistic, for surging, scoring in bunches and throwing multiple knockout punches.

 

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Forwards Jake Guentzel, Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin scored on the Penguins' first three scoring chances in the third period Wednesday. It happened so fast and it was all they needed to put Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and maybe, just maybe, this best-of-7 series out of reach.

The Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the Final. They nearly had a fifth goal at 6:40 of the third period, but it was called back because of a successful coach's challenge for offside by the Predators.

A team that leads a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final 2-0 has won the series 45 of 50 times (90 percent). A team that takes a 2-0 lead at home has won 34 of 37 times (91.9 percent).

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

"We have emotion to keep going," Malkin said. "We score one, we not stop. We want to score more. First shift in the third period we score. We want more. It's our game. It's never stop."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Pens erupt for three goals in 3rd

It's not a relentless 60-minute attack, but it doesn't have to be. That's the beauty of the Penguins, who are two wins away from being the first repeat Stanley Cup champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98.

They don't need much to burn the opposition as long as they don't burn themselves.

"We understand they play tight in all three zones and not so many chances to score," Malkin said, "but if you have chance, try."

This is the second time in as many games the Penguins have done this to the Predators.

They scored three goals in a span of 4:11 late in the first period of Game 1 to take a 3-0 lead. Just like in Game 2, they were like a freight train barreling over the Predators, who needed intermission to get their wits about them so they could respond and eventually tie the game.

Even though they did, the Penguins never lost their confidence that they'd get another chance, and they'd convert on it. They never do.

Guentzel scored on their first shot in 37 minutes at 16:43 of the third period. Pittsburgh won 5-3 despite getting outplayed for most of the game.

"We have some game-breakers, some guys that can really make a play out of nothing," center Matt Cullen said. "Obviously that's great to have in the playoffs."

You can make the case that the Penguins also got outplayed for the majority of Game 2. It didn't matter because of exactly what Cullen is talking about.

Guentzel scored 10 seconds into the third period, converting on a long rebound from forward Bryan Rust's set shot-pass off Predators goalie Pekka Rinne's pads. Guentzel's 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.

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm2: Guentzel on two-goal Game 2 performance

Wilson scored at 3:15 off of a 2-on-1 rush with Phil Kessel. The puck actually went in off Predators forward Vernon Fiddler. So what? It still counts. You can't win the Stanley Cup without getting some lucky bounces too.

Malkin scored 15 seconds later, creating his scoring chance by chipping the puck out of the zone and up to himself. He had Kessel with him on a 2-on-1 against Predators defenseman Roman Josi, but he shot it off the inside of the crossbar and in.

"We build off of that," Cullen said. "We get going. We get that fire. I think that when we come with that kind of hunger and follow up those shifts and start building on it, that's when we become a really good team. When you get that big early goal, guys want to hop over the boards and try to get the next one."

But a key to getting the surge is patience, discipline and understanding it won't always be this way.

Take Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins needed 33 scoring chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, to score three goals, the third coming in double-overtime to win the series.

Then in Game 1 against the Predators, the Penguins scored five goals on 14 scoring chances. They were credited with four goals on 13 scoring chances in Game 2.

"We're going to go through stretches of games where we might get a handful of shifts in a row where we don't get an opportunity, so it's just about making sure that we continue to try to play the game the right way," coach Mike Sullivan said. "We have to make sure we take what the game gives us and we don't turn into a high-risk team where we're turning pucks over, because we're trying to force things that aren't necessarily there."

The Penguins haven't been guilty of that in the first two games of this series. They also haven't been the better team for long stretches.

They're still up 2-0 in the series. Quick-strike ability is a heck of a thing to have.

"This team has an inner belief that we can score goals and they've provided plenty of evidence for themselves to suggest that," Sullivan said. "I know our guys believe in their ability to finish."

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