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2017 Stanley Cup: Pittsburgh Penguins explode in third, take 2-0 series lead on Nashville Predators

By
Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz (4) during the third period. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz (4) during the third period. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- With the game tied in the second intermission Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins came to a mutual agreement that it was time to step things up.

Good talk.

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Rookie Jake Guentzel promptly scored his second goal of the game just 10 seconds into the third, the first of three Pittsburgh goals in a span of 3:18, leading the Penguins to a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena.

The defending champion Penguins hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on Saturday.

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Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin followed with the other two third-period goals. Nashville's Pontus Aberg and Guentzel scored in the first for a 1-1 tie that carried into the third.

Until the three-goal eruption, the Penguins were struggling some on offense -- outshot 32-19 at that point -- though not as much as in Game 1 when they overcame a 37-minute shot drought.

So that was what they chatted about in the locker room.

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"Just a little bit of a wakeup call," Wilson said.

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"We talked a lot about elevating our play," added center Matt Cullen of Pittsburgh's second intermission. "We didn't think we had reached our best play yet and we were in a good spot at 1-1, and it's an opportunity to go out and throw up your best period and put yourself in a good spot, and I thought we had a really good period."

Guentzel's second goal of the game -- his playoffs-leading 12th and his second game-winner in a row -- came when he got a long rebound of a shot by Bryan Rust and took advantage of an open quarter of the net to make it 2-1.

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It was a Pittsburgh record for fastest playoff goal at the start of a period.

"It's crazy," Guentzel said of his two big games this series after an eight-game goal drought. "You can't even put into words what it feels like.

"But we know the ultimate goal is two more wins, and they're going to be tough to get."

The tiebreaker wasn't the end of the Penguins' quick start in the period.

A Phil Kessel shot grazed Wilson's stick before it was knocked into the net by the skates of Nashville's Vernon Fiddler. The puck trickled under goaltender Pekka Rinne's pads at 3:13 to make it 3-1.

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Just 15 seconds later, Malkin scored off a two-on-one, firing a perfect shot over Rinne's glove for a 4-1 lead.

The quick goal surge was enough for Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to send in backup goalie Juuse Saros in to replace Rinne, but the Penguins wouldn't have minded scoring more.

"When we score one, we don't stop," Malkin said. "We want to score more. The first shift in the third period, we score. We want more. It's our game. Never stop."

Rinne stopped 21 of 25 shots. He allowed four goals on 11 shots in Game 1 and has allowed 20 goals over his past six games after allowing just 16 over his first 11 playoff games.

"Pekka's been terrific through this entire playoffs," Laviolette said. "I think there's things we can do better. All three goals in the third period we can do something better."

Rinne doesn't want to have any carryover from the two losses.

"You have to put it behind you," he said. "For me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I've played a long time, and this is my first time having a chance to play for the Cup, so I think you just have to bury these two games and move ahead and just find a way to find some success."

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Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray stopped 37 of 38 Nashville shots while waiting for the top offense in this year's playoffs to kick in.

"I just tried to make the next save, tried to hold them off as long as possible," Murray said. "After that, we have confidence that we're going to score goals."

Chris Kunitz had two assists for the Penguins for a second game in a row.

Nashville, a first-time Final participant, heads home with a sizeable task.

"We're concerned about where the series is at," Predators captain Mike Fisher said. "We're not where we want to be."

NOTES: Penguins C Matt Cullen left briefly in the first period after being hit from behind into the boards by Predators D Matt Irwin. There was no penalty. ... Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino needed assistance to the locker room after blocking a shot off his left ankle area in the first period, but he returned. ... Pittsburgh RW Patric Hornqvist redirected the puck past G Juuse Saros at 6:48 of the third on a power play, but the goal was waved off after a review determined the Penguins were offside. ... Penguins C Evgeni Malkin and Nashville D P.K. Subban -- two of the biggest names in the game -- fought at 12:14 of the third, with Malkin picking up an extra roughing penalty. ... Pittsburgh made no lineup changes, meaning LW Carl Hagelin was a healthy scratch. ... Nashville also went with the same lineup as in Game 1.

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