PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from capturing a second straight Stanley Cup thanks to an epic blowout win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night, 6-0 over the Nashville Predators.
They have a 3-2 series lead ahead of Sunday’s Game 6, thanks in no small part to their trio of star players.
Sidney Crosby was dominant from the opening faceoff, tallying three assists and playing a forceful game. Phil Kessel, dormant for most of this series, had a goal and two assists. Evgeni Malkin, shut down without a point in two losses in Nashville, had a goal and an assist.
Matt Murray, shaky in Game 4, posted a 24-save shutout, the third in the playoffs in his career.
The Predators were absolutely walloped. They had lost their previous two road games in this series, but played well for most of them, as the Penguins won with short spurts of goal-scoring.
But in Game 5, the Predators were nearly done after the first 20 minutes.
Justin Schultz got the first goal for Pittsburgh at 1:31 of the first period after the Penguins earned a power play thanks to a strong move by Crosby.
That soft five-hole goal was an indication that, yet again, it would not be Pekka Rinne’s night in Pittsburgh, where he’s never won as a starter.
It was 2-0 just five minutes and 12 seconds later, as Bryan Rust lifted a shot over Rinne’s shoulder for his seventh of the playoffs.
The first period featured another round in Crosby’s battle with P.K. Subban, as the two had a wrestling match behind the Penguins’ net. They both went off on holding minors, which meant 4-on-4 hockey to end the period. (And meant Crosby, oddly, didn’t get an additional roughing minor for slamming Subban’s head into the ice.)
Which meant open ice for Kessel and Malkin without Subban, who had shut them down, out there. And Malkin scored a backbreaker for the Predators:
That goal chased Rinne, pulled for the second straight game in Pittsburgh after two masterful efforts in Nashville. He gave up three goals on nine shots and was replaced by Juuse Saros.
The game was put out of reach in the third period when Conor Sheary scored at 1:19 of the second period, followed by Kessel’s goal at 8:02:
Ron Hainsey scored the Penguins’ sixth goal at 16:40, on a perfect assist from Malkin.
Things got nasty in the third period, with fights and misconduct penalties on both sides.
So the Predators limp back to Nashville for Game 6, facing elimination. The good news? They’re 9-1 at home in the playoffs.
The bad news? Game 7 is back at a house of horrors for them in Pittsburgh.
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