Thoughts and observations from the Pens' 4-1 loss versus the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
* This was the Pekka Rinne we all expected heading into this series. He wasn't at his best in the first two games, but he's been brilliant the last two games. He was, without question, the best player on the ice. The Pens didn't just have chances - they had a number of incredibly high quality ones, including a couple of breakaways and a couple of crazy scrambles around his net. Rinne was up to the challenge, with his best sequence coming when he stopped Sidney Crosby on a mini-breakaway and eventually dove back into the crease to deny Jake Guentzel the wide open net.
* Crosby did end up putting one of those breakaways in the back of the net on an absolutely gorgeous play. He faked a shot and got Rinne to bite. He then deked to his backhand and swung a shot that went off the post, off Rinne's skate and in. Unfortunately, that's the only time the Pens were able to find the back of the net. If they were able to convert any of the other chances, we could be talking about a different result.
* This marks the first time Matt Murray has lost two straight games in his playoff career. He usually responds to adversity well, but this is a new kind of adversity for him. If he gets the start in Game 5, I'm looking forward to seeing how he bounces back.
* Overall, it just felt like the Preds wanted this win more than the Pens did. I thought they played harder and were the hungrier team. Their desperation, urgency and intensity was at a higher level than Pittsburgh's, and the Pens got outworked and outbattled as a result. Last game, head coach Mike Sullivan said he felt like they got pushed off pucks and needed to do a better job getting their noses over those pucks and being stiffer. They weren't able to accomplish that tonight.
* For the second straight game, the Pens also gave the Preds 'freebies.' They may have created odd-man rushes, but they gave up some as well - and the Preds got their back-breaking third goal as a result. Sullivan said afterward that goal was preventable, especially when they're playing the game the right way, and they need to have better awareness.
* On a positive note, the Pens performed much better on special teams. They had just one power play in the game, and they did a terrific job of moving the puck and moving for each other - though they probably still could have put more shots on net. Then after giving up a couple goals in Game 3, the penalty kill responded by thwarting both of Nashville's attempts. They said they wanted to be more on their toes and take away time and space, and they did that.