Bruins

STANLEY CUP FINAL: Penguins take 2-0 lead with 4-1 win over Predators

STANLEY CUP FINAL: Penguins take 2-0 lead with 4-1 win over Predators

PITTSBURGH -- By coach Peter Laviolette's math, the Nashville Predators have been pretty good for all but 10 minutes of the Stanley Cup Final.

It's not much. Unless you're playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then it's too much. Way too much.

The defending Stanley Cup champions needed just over three minutes at the start of the third period to turn a taut Game 2 into a runaway, beating Pekka Rinne three times in a 4-1 victory on Wednesday night to inch closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back titles.

The barrage started with Jake Guentzel. Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraska-born rookie provided the winner in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs.

"It's crazy," said Guentzel, who has an NHL rookie record five game-winning goals this postseason. "You can't even put into words what it feels. But we know the ultimate goal is two more wins and they're going to be tough to get."

Only if Rinne turns back into Rinne. The 34-year-old spent the first three rounds of the playoffs helping carry Nashville to the Final for the first time. Now he's the biggest reason the Predators head back to "Smashville" for Game 3 on Saturday night reeling. After giving up four goals on 11 shots in Game 1, he allowed four more on 25 shots in Game 2. He was pulled when Evgeni Malkin ended Pittsburgh's surge with his ninth of the playoffs 3:28 into the third.

Rinne entered the series with a .947 save percentage in the postseason. Against Pittsburgh, it's at .777 and he remains winless in his career against the Penguins in games he's started.

"The limited chances they've had they've done a good job," Rinne said. "Overall these two games, like I said, it's disappointing to be down 2-0 but we have to be feeling still positive with the way we played as a whole and creating chances."

Asked twice afterward if he was committed to starting Rinne on Saturday, Laviolette stressed Rinne has been "terrific," adding there are plenty of things the Predators can do better in front of him like stopping the odd-man rushes that allowed the Penguins to take charge.

"There's a stretch they're able to gain some momentum, able to capitalize and be opportunistic and that swung two games in their favor," he said.

Pontus Aberg scored the lone goal for the Predators , who were once again undone by a sudden barrage from the NHL's highest-scoring team, though they haven't lost faith in Rinne. Defenseman P.K. Subban said the team was "extremely confident" and in the prospect of going home, where the Predators are 7-1 during the playoffs.

"We're going to win the next game and then we'll see what happens from there," Subban said.

It wouldn't take much to be better than what happened in Pittsburgh.

In Game 1, the Penguins pushed three goals by Rinne in a span of 4:11 in the first period to build a 3-0 lead. The Predators rallied to tie before Guentzel's go-ahead goal with 3:17 remaining put the Penguins ahead to stay.

This time, Pittsburgh's flurry came a little bit later. And it was once again led by the baby-faced son of a coach who has no problem shouldering the responsibility of playing alongside star Sidney Crosby.

The game was tied at 1 at the start of the third period when Guentzel jumped on a rebound to put Pittsburgh ahead. It was 1 second shy of the fastest goal to start a period in Final history.

Wilson was credited with his third of the playoffs just over 3 minutes later when a centering pass caromed off Nashville's Vernon Fiddler and by Rinne. Malkin's shot sent Rinne to the bench in favor of backup Juuse Saros, who made his playoff debut.

"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."

Pittsburgh vowed to put more pressure on Rinne than it managed in their 5-3 victory in Game 1, a win they managed despite going 37 minutes without throwing a single puck Rinne's way and none in the second period, the first time that's happened since the NHL started tracking shots in 1957.

The Penguins matched their entire shot total from the opener (12) by the end of the first period but still found themselves trying to keep up with the Predators. The Stanley Cup newbies were disappointed but not dismayed by their Game 1 loss, pointing to the way they carried play for long stretches as tangible proof they weren't just happy to be here.

The result was the kind of up-and-down play that showcased the speed on both sides and included more than a dash of antagonism, particularly early.

Nashville's Matt Irwin drilled Pittsburgh's Matt Cullen from behind into the boards in the first period, a hit that left the 40-year-old Cullen headed down the runway for a quick check but didn't result in a penalty. Minutes later, Penguins forward Chris Kunitz became tangled up with P.K. Subban and ended up cross-checking Subban in the head, part of a sequence that saw Malkin go off for hooking. Malkin and Subban even ended up fighting in the third period when things got out of hand.

It was a scene hard to imagine through the first two taut and chippy periods.

Pittsburgh stayed in it thanks to Matt Murray (37 saves) and when Pittsburgh returned to the ice for the start of the third they, as coach Mike Sullivan is fond of saying, "got to their game."

A style that now has the Penguins two victories away from the cusp of a dynasty.

Bruins announce that Patrice Bergeron will not play in Game 4

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File Photo

Bruins announce that Patrice Bergeron will not play in Game 4

TORONTO – The Bruins will need to take a pivotal Game 4 without their best player as Patrice Bergeron is out for Thursday night’s playoff game at the Air Canada Centre with an upper body injury. Bergeron will be day-to-day moving forward, but that’s not going to help the B’s as they lose one piece of a forward line that’s dominated the Maple Leafs through the first three games of the series.

It’s really not a great sign when the Bruins had two days off in Toronto between Game 3 and Game 4, and Bergeron still wasn’t able to give it a go on Thursday night. Instead it will be Riley Nash centering the top line between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and Tommy Wingels entering back into the lineup with No. 37 out of the lineup. There was a faint sign that something might be up with Bergeron when Riley Nash took some turns in his place at practice on Wednesday afternoon at Air Canada Centre, but no signal whatsoever that something was serious enough to keep him out of the lineup.

It goes without saying that the Bruins might be in big trouble if this Bergeron injury proves to be something that could cause him to miss multiple games in a best-of-seven series where the B’s currently hold a 2-1 lead. Bergeron had five assists and was a plus-4 rating in the first three games of the series with his line amassing 20 points in the first two games of the series.   

Here are the Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on pregame warm-ups at the Air Canada Centre:

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Kuraly-Backes

Schaller-Acciari-Wingels

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 

Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

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File Photo

Grzelcyk looks "good to go"; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.

The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.

“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.

“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”

The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate:  

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE