PITTSBURGH (AP)— The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.
They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.
Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.
Guentzel snapped an eight-game goal-less drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.
Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal — the fewest by a winning team in a Cup final game. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach’s challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.
“I think at the end of the day we’re up 1-0,” said Bonino, who added an empty-net goal with 1:02 to play. “We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don’t think it’s Xs and Os. We’ve got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.
The Penguins were not credited with a shot on goal in the second period, making the Predators the first team to hold an opponent to no shots in a period of a Cup final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in the 1957-58 season.
But, all the guys from “Smaville” have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.
The Penguins led the league in scoring, but Nashville’s forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.
Yet, Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. One of his job duties is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot past Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.
Sullivan used his coach’s challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg’s right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.
“The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino’s innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm’s left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.
Nashville didn’t bail.
Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.
“We didn’t do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake.”
PITTSBURGH 5, NASHVILLE 3
Nashville 0 1 2 — 3
Pittsburgh 3 0 2 — 5
First period: P — Malkin 8 (Daley, Crosby), 15:32 (pp); Sheary 1 (Crosby, Kunitz), 16:37; Bonino 3 (Dumoulin), 19:43.
Second period: N — Ellis 5 (Fisher, Subban), 8:21 (pp).
Third period: N — Sissons 6 (Jarnkrok, Josi), 10:06 (pp); Gaudreau 1 (Fisher, Watson), 13:29; P — Guentzel 10 (Cullen, Schultz), 16:43; Bonino 4 (Kunitz), 18:58 (en).
Saves: N (Rinne) 7; P (Murray) 23.
Power plays: N 2-for-3; P 1-for-3.
Att. — 18,618.