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Rookie Frederick Gaudreau paces Nashville Predators to Stanley Cup Final-tying victory

By
John Glennon, The Sports Xchange
Predators fans celebrated after Monday night's 4-1 victory over the Penguins evened the Stanley Cup Final at 2-2. Game 5 is in Pittsburgh Thursday. Photo courtesy Nashville Predators/Twitter
Predators fans celebrated after Monday night's 4-1 victory over the Penguins evened the Stanley Cup Final at 2-2. Game 5 is in Pittsburgh Thursday. Photo courtesy Nashville Predators/Twitter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rookie Frederick Gaudreau has no problem performing on hockey's biggest stage.

The Nashville Predators' 23-year-old undrafted center had not scored an NHL goal before the start of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Gaudreau scored his second straight game-winning goal -- and third goal of the Final -- on Monday to pace the Predators to a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4.

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Nashville won its second consecutive game to send the best-of-seven series back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2. Game 5 is on Thursday.

"He's been unbelievable for us, just the way he's come in and he's been so good with the timely goals and so composed," Predators captain Mike Fisher said of Gaudreau, who has played just nine career regular-season NHL games. "He definitely belongs, and he's been a huge part of our success. It's good to see for sure."

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The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins were outshot for the fourth straight game, but Pittsburgh was outscored 9-2 in the two losses at Bridgestone Arena.

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"Well, obviously it's hard to win when you score one goal," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought tonight, of all the games, we generated the most chances and the highest quality. 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."

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was spectacular in the victory, making a handful of close-range saves among his 23 stops. He and the Predators improved to 9-1 at home in the postseason.

Rinne had come under plenty of scrutiny after sub-par performances in Games 1 and 2, when the veteran netminder allowed eight goals on 36 shots.

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"You always have ups and downs, and you try to stay even-keeled," Rinne said. "I'm sure at the end of the day when you look back, (the season) is a roller coaster. It's an emotional ride. It's no different in these Finals."

The Predators scored twice in the second period, taking a 3-1 lead on goals by Gaudreau and Viktor Arvidsson.

Gaudreau's tally came 3:45 into the period on a wraparound, but there was no goal signal on the ice at the time.

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The NHL stopped play shortly thereafter, awarding Gaudreau the score after a review clearly showed the puck crossed the line.

Gaudreau didn't score a goal during the regular season this year.

Rinne made a tremendous diving save midway through the second period to keep the score 2-1, foiling Jake Guentzel by knocking the puck out of the crease just before it crossed the goal line.

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"Somehow he managed to keep it out," said Guentzel, who scored four goals in the series' first three games. "I had how many chances, just myself. I've got to put one of those away."

Arvidsson doubled the Predators' lead with 6:52 left in the second period, scoring on a breakaway after Fisher's diving pass in neutral ice sent him in alone. It was the first goal for Arvidsson since Game 4 of the first playoff round, and it put Nashville up 3-1.

Filip Forsberg's empty-net goal at 16:37 of the third period completed the scoring.

The Predators had jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 5:09 left in the first period when center Calle Jarnkrok knocked home a rebound as he went sailing into the crease. Matt Murray (22 saves) had stopped Craig Smith's initial deflection of Austin Watson's shot, but Jarnkrok's follow gave him five points -- one goal and four assists -- in the past five games.

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Minutes later, just as the Nashville crowd was getting revved up -- giving the team its first standing ovation of the contest -- the Penguins struck back.

Sidney Crosby, who was held without a shot on goal in Game 2, jumped on a loose puck and cruised in on a breakaway. He deked Rinne, then slid a backhand shot that tapped the post before settling behind the goalie at 15:57.

NOTES: The Predators used the same lineup as they did in Game 2, scratching LW Cody McLeod as well as C Vern Fiddler ... Nashville's four centers -- Frederick Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok, Mike Fisher and Colton Sissons -- have 13 points in the four Final games ... Dierks Bentley became the latest in a long line of star musicians to sing the national anthem at a Predators home playoff game ... The Penguins made one change to their lineup, as RW Josh Archibald replaced C Scott Wilson ... Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino missed his second consecutive contest with a foot injury ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby now has 17 career points in Cup Final games, two behind franchise leader Mario Lemieux.

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