Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final is Monday in Nashville (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports). NHL.com writers in Nashville will be checking in throughout the day.
Here is the Stanley Cup Final news for Sunday:
7: 30 p.m.
Right wing Phil Kessel has no goals in the Stanley Cup Final, no goals in the past five games, and only two in the past 12. But the bigger problem now is he's part of the Pittsburgh Penguins slumping power play. So Kessel had a conversation with assistant Rick Tocchet prior to practice Sunday and you can probably guess what they talked about. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen spoke to Tocchet about the conversation he had with Kessel and wrote how it was about more than just the power play.
But the power play hasn't been the only issue for the Penguins against the Nashville Predators in the Final. The other half of their special teams' game is struggling too. Our Tim Campbell covered that topic in his dispatch from the Penguins' practice at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.
One player who would be on both of the Penguins' special teams units if he is able to play is center Nick Bonino. He made a surprising return to practice Sunday. It was surprising because Bonino hadn't skated since Game 2 on Wednesday, when he injured his left foot blocking P.K. Subban's shot in the first period. Bonino has needed crutches to get around, but he got his foot in his skate Sunday and took to the ice. What is his status for Game 4? NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke has the story on that one.
Bonino's status might be up in the air, but the good news for the Penguins is goalie Matt Murray should be back and ready to go in Game 4. He has not lost back-to-back games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since making his debut last season. NHL.com Columnist Dave Stubbs wrote about Murray's resiliency and ability to shrug off a tough loss with a strong follow-up performance.
Back to Tocchet for a moment. In addition to being a Penguins' assistant and likely Kessel's most trusted confidant in the organization, Tocchet is also a candidate to fill one of the two remaining coaching vacancies in the NHL. Rosen talked to him about that as well.
While we're on the subject of coaches, let's not forget that former Vancouver Canucks assistant Doug Lidster, who is working with Amalie Benjamin to analyze the Stanley Cup Final from the Penguins' perspective. Benjamin chatted with Lidster about the Penguins' special teams problems and more following Game 3. Here is that story.
And, finally, Penguins defenseman Ian Cole put a bow on Game 3 and helped us look forward to Game 4 in his latest blog entry. Cole also discussed the business end of a road trip in the NHL, especially in the Stanley Cup Final.
More speed has the Nashville Predators in position to tie series
The Predators held an optional practice on Sunday after their 5-1 win in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. The Predators trail 2-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), but feel better about themselves after getting a win under their belt.
LNH Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu wrote about what the advanced statistics were telling the Predators after they lost the first two games in Pittsburgh and how their use of that data backed their belief that they were on the right track in the series. NHL.com correspondent Robby Stanley has the story of how inserting forwards Harry Zolnierczyk and PA Parenteau and shifting rookie Frederick Gaudreau to center for Game 3 has helped the Predators become more of a four-line team with better scoring balance.
NHL.com Staff Writer Tom Gulitti wrote about the importance of Mike Fisher's leadership to the Predators' Stanley Cup Playoff run and the adjustment period Fisher went through after being named Shea Weber's successor as captain.
Special teams, emotion made difference for Predators
Nashville's special teams have been excellent through the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final, and former NHL assistant Doug Lidster tells NHL.com Staff Writer Amalie Benjamin that they're making a difference. Nashville went 2-for-3 in its 5-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 while holding the Penguins scoreless in three tries. The Predators are 4-for-10 in the series; the Penguins are 1-for-13. For Pittsburgh to rebound, "Both the power play and the penalty-killing have got to be a lot better," the former NHL defenseman says.
Former St. Louis Blues coach Davis Payne was impressed with the intensity of Game 3, telling NHL.com Staff Writer Lisa Dillman that "it looked like a Stanley Cup Final game" because of the emotion, intensity and battles. Payne was also impressed with the play of Nashville defenseman Roman Josi, who had a goal and two assists. ""He's one of those defensemen that make the game look really easy because he's a step ahead," Payne told Dillman.
Predators reward fans with Game 3 win
The party started early in Nashville on Saturday and continued all night inside and outside of Bridgestone Arena, with the Predators getting a crucial victory in Game 3.
The Penguins still lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, but if Saturday and the first three rounds of the playoffs are any indications, the Predators are going to be tough to beat in their own building. They improved to 8-1 in the playoffs at home and looked impressive doing it.
Video: Reaction to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final
Here is a look at what happened on Saturday:
Nashville Predators 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 1
Smashville was in full force on Saturday, on and off the ice. With Predators fans pumping up the volume in Bridgestone Arena, their team got back into the Stanley Cup Final with a convincing win.
Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel opened the scoring 2:46 into the game, but the Predators soon began to dominate play and ran off five consecutive goals.
Roman Josi opened the scoring in the second period for the Predators, and Frederick Gaudreau and James Neal also scored before the period was over to give Nashville a 3-1 lead after two. Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm scored in the third period against Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who allowed five goals for the first time in 28 career playoff games.
Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held without a shot on goal.
It all added up to a historic and memorable night in Nashville. NHL.com Columnist Nick Cotsonika took it all in, from the scene inside Bridgestone Arena to the party outside.
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne struggled in the first two games of the Final. But as NHL.com Staff writer Tom Gulitti reports, after allowing Guentzel's early goal, Rinne got his game back.
As for Malkin and Crosby, it was a long night for Pittsburgh's two star centers. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen has the Penguins story.
NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke graded all of the players from Game 3. Here's a look at the top performers.
Video: Roman Josi on first Stanley Cup Final in Nashville
Here is what we learned in Game 3
Pekka Rinne returning to form
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne allowed a goal on the second shot of Game 3, but was unbeatable after that to earn his first victory in the Stanley Cup Final. Rinne, who made 27 saves, had some adventures, awkward moments and difficulties smothering rebounds, but his confidence was clearly on the upswing and this will be a competitive series if that trend continues.
Power-play goals are huge
The Predators went 2-for-3 on the power play in Game 3, and that essentially slammed the door shut on any possible Pittsburgh comeback. On each of the two power-play goals, Nashville worked the puck to an open shooter, exposing a vulnerability in the Penguins' penalty killing. The Predators are 4-for-10 on the power play in the Final, giving them an edge on Pittsburgh's struggling power play, which is 1-for-13.
Penguins weren't desperate enough
A frequent comment in the Pittsburgh dressing room after Game 3 was that they didn't match the Predators' desperation. The Penguins knew the Predators were in must-win territory after dropping the first two games of the series but that knowledge didn't translate into enough action on the ice. "We've gotta find a way to raise that level of desperation and be better all over the ice," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. That element is likely to tell the tale of Game 4 on Monday.
Friends are not being made
With the stakes so high, chippy play has escalated quickly in the Final and each team has initiated and retaliated. There were 14 minor penalties and five misconducts in Game 3, and the verbal sniping seemed to be on the increase as well. In his postgame interview with NBCSN's Pierre Maguire, Predators defenseman P.K. Subban revealed some verbal snark between him and Crosby late in the game. "He told me my breath smelled, but I don't know," Subban said. "I used some Listerine before the game so I don't know what he's talking about." Don't expect an increase in love between now and when the Cup is awarded.
Video: PIT@NSH, Gm3: Subban on team's performance in win