PITTSBURGH – One of the running themes of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final has been the losing side feeling good about the way they played, despite the result.
It was clear the Nashville Predators were the better team in Games 1 and 2, but they found themselves down 2-0 in the series. Now it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins’ turn to start feeling that way after they dropped Games 3 and 4 in Smashville.
“We thought we did some good things. We’ve got to put together games going in the right direction,” said Penguins forward Bryan Rust. “We’ve just got to learn from the good and the bad. There were plenty of both.”
The Penguins did have their highest total of high-danger shots on Pekka Rinne in Game 5 with 13 (via Natural Stat Trick), but could only muster a single goal for the second game in a row. Their pressing approach did lead to several odd-man rushes and breakaways, one of which ended with a Sidney Crosby goal.
Coming back home to PPG Arena, where they won the opening two games of the series, will certainly give the Penguins a sense of confidence as they look to move within a game of capturing another Cup. There’s a comfort level there, and most importantly, head coach Mike Sullivan gets the option of having the last change to get the matchups he wants.
The winner of Thursday night’s game could find history on their side. According to the NHL, teams that have won Game 5 when the Final is knotted 2-2 have gone on to win the series 71 percent of the time since it went to a best-of-7 format (17 of 24 series).
“I see them and if the number’s not 100 percent or guaranteed it doesn’t really matter to me,” Rust said of seeing those kind of stats.
Predators head coach Peter Laviolette is under the belief that the more desperate team usually wins out. There are at most three games left in the series and Nashville has yet to win in Pittsburgh. Despite taking the last two games, he doesn’t believe in momentum traveling from game to game.
“They still have home ice. Desperation should probably still fall on our side here where we know we’ve got to win a game in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We know we’ve got to win one road game and then a home game to boot.
“Right now I’m not sure that there’s a momentum or a desperation. I think you’re probably going to see two teams that are ready to play hockey and fight hard for one win.”
No matter the result in Game 5, the Cup will be in Bridgestone Arena on Sunday with one team hoping to lift it at the end of the night. Every play will be magnified even more so at this point in the series. Players are tired; both teams are desperate to win. Every moment really matters now.
“Knowing that there are those extra days allows guys to empty the tank,” said Rust. “We’re down to the nitty-gritty here and I think we’re emptying the tank anyway. One bad play, one shift off could mean the worst.”
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