PITTSBURGH -- Somewhere between the catfish lobbing , A-list national anthem singers, Carrie Underwood's forgetfulness , Charles Barkley's surprise cameo and P.K. Subban's breath, there's been another notable development during the Stanley Cup Final:
A series has broken out. Perhaps the seeds of an upset, too.
A week ago, the Nashville Predators headed home down 2-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Pekka Rinne's game seemed to be in tatters and the Penguins fan base was musing whether it preferred a clean sweep or just a split of the two games in Nashville so the defending champions could raise the Cup on home ice.
So, about that.
The vibe inside PPG Paints Arena for Game 5 on Thursday night figures to be more anxious than anticipatory after the Predators evened the series at 2-2 with a pair of vintage performances on home ice that sent "Smashville" into a frenzy and delivered a very clear message that the first-timers are a clear threat to become first-time winners.
Through four games, Nashville has more goals, more shots on goal and a bit more swagger than Pittsburgh. What began as a two-month slog to the Cup is now a three-game dash, one that appears to be a coin flip. The Penguins have the experience. The Predators have the momentum. Both are fighting fatigue with adrenaline.
"I know people talk about how we're tired, but believe me, they're tired too," Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin said. "It's not only us tired. It's only three games left. We're not talking about being tired."
Maybe, but Nashville appeared a step quicker in its home building, pouring in nine goals and handing Penguins goalie Matt Murray the first back-to-back playoff losses of his young career. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan isn't concerned about Murray. He's not really worried about the 190 feet in front of Murray, either. The Penguins have come within two games of the first team to capture consecutive Cups in nearly two decades due in large part to their resiliency.
Kings: Toffoli agrees to 3-year, $13.8 million extension
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Forward Tyler Toffoli has agreed to a three-year, $13.8 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings announced the deal with the restricted free agent Wednesday.
Toffoli had 16 goals and 18 assists in 63 games with the Kings last season. He has been among Los Angeles' most consistent offensive players since cracking the NHL lineup during the 2012-13 season.
He scored 14 points in 26 playoff games during the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup title in 2014. He had a career-high 58 points during the 2015-16 season, including 31 goals.
New Kings general manager Rob Blake has reached lengthy contract extensions with Toffoli and Tanner Pearson during the offseason, keeping together his young core despite several huge contracts on Los Angeles' payroll.
Blackhawks: Defenseman Rutta agrees to 1-year deal
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to a one-year deal with Czech defenseman Jan Rutta.
The 26-year-old Rutta set career highs with 24 assists and 32 points in 46 games with the Czech Extraliga's Pirati Chomutov. He also played in this year's world championship, finishing with a goal in eight games.
General manager Stan Bowman says Rutta "makes our defense more dynamic and he has shown he can contribute offensively as well."
The Blackhawks announced the deal Wednesday.