Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 6-0 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville at PPG Paints Arena.
*The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from becoming the first NHL team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in nearly two decades.
*The Pens felt like they played their best game of the series in a 4-1 defeat in Game 4 in Nashville. They also felt they were about to break through. The dam broke in Game 5 as the Pens played their best game of the entire 2017 postseason and skated away with a statement win.
*P.K. Subban guaranteed the Pens would win Game 3 in Nashville after his club fell down 2-0 in the series. The Preds delivered on that promise with a victory. With the series tied at 2-2, Pens center Evgeni Malkin provided his own guarantee.
Before the game, Malkin said: "I know this building is loud. We'll use our speed and win the game."
Malkin was correct on both notions. The Pens used their speed to overwhelm the Predators and won to take a 3-2 advantage in the Stanley Cup Final.
So who will make the next guarantee?
*Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. The Pens have the biggest time player in the game: Sidney Crosby. It's also the biggest game of the season. So Crosby came up with big-time plays for his club to lead the charge to victory.
Crosby set the tone early off the opening faceoff when he split the Preds defense and, as he was being dragged down to the ice, snapped a shot that went off the far post. Crosby drew a penalty and Pittsburgh scored on the ensuing power play to take a 1-0 lead just 1:31 into the game.
Crosby, who finished the game with three assists and was the best player on the ice, kept the pressure up throughout the entire game. He played, what Mike Sullivan would call, "inspiring hockey." The Pens fed off of his emotions and effort. Crosby showed true leadership.
*Crosby wasn't just scoring; he also did a lot of the dirty work. He grinded it out defensively in his own zone, and even engaged with Subban behind the Pens' net.
The only blemish on Crosby's night was his water bottle toss from the bench. It wasn't the strongest or most accurate throw. But in his defense, it was an unintentional toss as the bottle slipped from his hand.
"I have a better arm than that," he joked after the game.
*The best line in the National Hockey League in the final two months of the regular season was the trio of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary. The triumvirate struggled in the postseason and had been separated for much of this playoff run.
However, the band got back together in Game 5 and they played all the old hits, much to the delight of the onlooking audience.
The combination connected in the opening minutes of the second period to give the Pens a 4-0 lead to ice the game. It was a sick backhand pass from below the goal line right to the tape of Sheary. He buried it for his second goal of the playoffs, and on his birthday no less. What a nice present for his 25th year on this planet.
Guentzel picked up an assist on that play, his 21st point of the postseason. That tied an NHL record for a rookie in a single playoff (Dino Ciccarelli).
*Everything went right for the Pens in the win. They had six different goal scorers in the game, while 12 different players recorded a point. The power play, which was 1-for-16 coming into the contest, scored early in the first period to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Phil Kessel broke his six-game goalless streak with his eighth tally of the playoffs. Goaltender Matt Murray, who had suffered the first back-to-back losses in his postseason career, made sure that number didn't reach three with a 24-save shutout.
Even veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey got on the scoreboard with a ridiculous play. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound blueliner isn't known for his quick feet and speed. But he is an underrated skater. Hainsey avoided a hit from two Predators, slicing through their attempts and leaving them to collide with each other in a friendly fire. Hainsey skated the length of the ice, dished to Malkin and headed to the net.
Malkin squeezed the puck through Subban and back to Hainsey for the six-foot put.
*I can't say enough about Chris Kunitz and the postseason he's had. That guy is all heart and guts. He was hitting everything that moved in Game 5, including a monstrous check on Mattias Ekholm behind the net.
*Both of these teams are excellent on home ice. Nashville is 9-1 in the Music City, including 2-0 against Pittsburgh.
The Pens are now 10-3 at home in this year's playoff run. Those 10 playoff victories are a franchise record, and they've won six straight at PPG Paints Arena.
Home ice can be overrated at times, but with these two teams it is crucial. With home-ice advantage, Pittsburgh merely has to hold serve. If this series does go to a seventh game, the Pens will be glad to have it played in their home barn.