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Stanley Cup Final Buzz: Predators turn table on Penguins

Pittsburgh faces goalie questions for Game 5; Pekka Rinne, depth scorers helping Nashville rebound

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Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final is Thursday in Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). NHL.com writers in Nashville and Pittsburgh will be checking in throughout the day. Here is the Stanley Cup Final news for Tuesday:

 
5:10 p.m.
Penguins have questions to answer

The Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series has been erased. It's 2-2 going back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Pittsburgh played its best game of the series in Game 4 but has some tough questions to answer after losing 4-1 on the road. Senior writer Dan Rosen has the series reset from Pittsburgh's perspective.

One question that only Penguins coach Mike Sullivan can answer is who will be Pittsburgh's starting goalie in Game 5: Matt Murray or Marc-Andre Fleury? Sullivan isn't giving off the impression that he's contemplating a change after Murray allowed a combined eight goals on 58 shots in Games 3 and 4, but he also hasn't outright declared Murray the starter. Rosen covers Pittsburgh's goalie situation after Sullivan spoke on a conference call Tuesday.

Another question the Penguins have to answer is regarding their depth scoring. Where has it gone? They have one goal in each of the past two games. Jake Guentzel, who leads the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 13 goals, and Sidney Crosby scored their two goals in the span. Correspondent Wes Crosby writes that Penguins coach Mike Sullivan remains confident in his group.

But it's not just the Penguins' depth scorers that have to step up. How about two of their primary scorers, forwards Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel? Former Vancouver Canucks assistant Doug Lidster, who has been analyzing Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final for NHL.com, says Malkin and Kessel need to start contributing if the Penguins want to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Video: Mike Johnson and Michelle McMahon talk Game 4

 

4:46 p.m.
Balanced attack fuels Predators' revival

The Nashville Predators did not practice Tuesday following their 4-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Bridgestone Arena on Monday. They will practice in Nashville on Wednesday before flying to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

The Predators are feeling a lot better about themselves after winning Games 3 and 4 at home to tie the series, 2-2. They have matched the Penguins' star forwards with a balanced scoring attack and have had different heroes step up in each game. Staff writer Tom Gulitti wrote about the by-committee approach of Nashville's forward group.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne's remarkable sequence of three saves in four seconds in the second period of Game 4 remains the talk of the hockey world. LNH.com senior managing editor Arpon Basu has the story of how the Predators enjoyed watching the viral video of Finnish play-by-play broadcaster Antti Makinen capturing the moment.

Correspondent Robby Stanley breaks down how Nashville's forecheck has disrupted Pittsburgh's play at both ends of the rink.

 

3:37 p.m.
Penguins, Predators taking advantage of rest

With two days off before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators have the opportunity to regroup and reset.

NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen presents four key questions for the Penguins entering Game 5, including if it's right for them to be optimistic even though they lost Game 4.

The Penguins scored one goal in each of their losses in Games 3 and 4, none by center Evgeni Malkin or forward Phil Kessel. While center Sidney Crosby played well in Game 4, former NHL assistant Doug Lidster tells NHL.com Staff Writer Amalie Benjamin that they need more production from their other two superstar forwards.

Meanwhile the Predators are trying to stay on an even keel. Defenseman Ryan Ellis told NHL.com Columnist Dave Stubbs, "We've made it a series [but] we still have to win one in their rink."

 
9:30 a.m.
Pekka Rinne rebounds, Predators tie series

The Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins each are two wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Predators evened the best-of-7 series with a 4-1 in in Game 4 against the Penguins on Monday, improving to 9-1 at Bridgestone Arena in the postseason.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne had his second straight solid performance, holding the Penguins to one goal for the second straight game.

Here is a look at what happened Monday:

 

Nashville Predators 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

The Nashville Predators certainly know what to do for an encore.

Following their 5-1 win in Game 3 on Saturday, the Predators shut down the Penguins again to win Game 4 and send the best-of-7 series back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday.

Predators forward Frederick Gaudreau scored his third NHL playoff goal, all during the Final, to break a 1-1 tie at 3:45 of the second period. Forwards Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg also scored for the Predators, who outscored the Penguins 9-2 in Games 3 and 4.

Center Sidney Crosby scored for Pittsburgh, his first goal of the Final.

Rinne, who was pulled during a 4-1 loss in Game 2, made 23 saves. Here's NHL.com Staff Writer Tom Gulitti with the story on the Predators goalie.

One sequence in particular summed up Rinne's night. LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu breaks down the key moment.

It was a big night for Gaudreau, who didn't even have his own locker stall at practice Monday. NHL.com Columnist Nick Cotsonika has the story on Gaudreau.

For the Penguins, Crosby played a solid game but not many of his teammates followed suit, writes NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen.

Crosby was one of a few Penguins to earn high marks in Game 4. Here's NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke with the honor roll from Monday.

Video: Preds even series with help from Rinne in 4-1 win

 

Here are some things we learned in Game 4

 

Rinne returns to form

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, second-guessed after losing the first two games of the series in Pittsburgh, has returned to form. Rinne helped the Predators win two games at home, leaving the best-of-7 series tied 2-2, by making 50 saves on 52 shots in Games 3 and 4. There can be little doubt Rinne was in the zone in Game 4, shifting the pressure back to the Penguins for Game 5.

Nashville defense was suspect

Rinne's increasing sharpness could not have been better timed. The Predators defensive scheme had numerous breakdowns and their defensemen got caught up-ice a number of times during Game 4. Those openings -- some forced, some not -- helped the Penguins create scoring chances at a better rate than they did in any of the first three games. The Penguins' opportunities included three breakaways in Game 4 and Rinne stopped two of them, one each against Crosby and forward Chris Kunitz, and made several other important saves to keep his team in the lead.

Penguins had their shots

The Penguins ran up against a hot goalie in Game 4, masking the fact that for the first time in the series they won the battle of shot attempts. They had a 57-50 edge in that department and that was an encouraging development for coach Mike Sullivan. "I thought tonight, of all the games we played, we generated the most chances and the highest quality," Sullivan said. "It didn't go in the net for us. We had a number of Grade-A opportunities, a couple of breakaways, flurries around the net."

Pittsburgh has trouble scoring

The Penguins had one goal in each game in Nashville and their 2-0 series lead is gone. They're feeling the effects of a combination of forwards who have gone quiet offensively, including Phil Kessel, who hasn't scored in six games, Bryan Rust (six games), Kunitz (four games), Patric Hornqvist (four games since returning from injury), and Conor Sheary (three games). Center Evgeni Malkin didn't have his best stuff in either game in Nashville, totaling two shots on goal in the two games. Forward Jake Guentzel, who leads the playoffs with 13 goals, scored in Game 3 but missed chances that were going in earlier in the playoffs.

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