NHL (National Hockey League)

Pittsburgh Penguins hammer home advantage to take two-game lead in Stanley Cup final

Three-minute blitz featuring goals from Jake Guentzel, Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin sees defending champions pull away from Nashville Predators

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2017, 4:18pm

The Pittsburgh Penguins kept Pekka Rinne plenty busy this time. Too busy for Rinne and the rest of the Nashville Predators to keep up with the surging defending Stanley Cup champions.

Jake Guentzel, Scott Wilson and Evgeni Malkin scored three minutes and 18 seconds apart early in the third period as the Penguins chased Rinne and pulled away for a 4-1 victory in game two of the Stanley Cup final.

The Penguins lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. Game three is on Saturday night in Nashville in what amounts to a last stand for the Predators and their suddenly average-looking goalie.

The 22-year-old Guentzel finished with two goals to give him an NHL-high 12 during the play-offs, the second-most by a rookie in post-season history.

“It’s crazy,” Guentzel said. “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.”

Matt Murray played spectacularly at times through the first two periods, buying his teammates enough time to find their footing and get to Rinne.

Murray finished with 37 saves in all as he helped move the Penguins to within two victories of becoming the first team to go back-to-back since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.

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.

In game one, 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 one at the start of the third period when Guentzel jumped on a rebound 10 seconds into the period to put Pittsburgh ahead.

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Wilson was credited with his third of the play-offs just over three minutes later when a centreing pass caromed off Nashville’s Vernon Fiddler and by Rinne.

Malkin added his ninth of the play-offs and second of the series just 15 seconds later and Rinne was skating to the bench in favour of backup Juuse Saros after stopping 21 of 25 shots.

“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.”

Rinne fell to 0-5-0 in five career starts in Pittsburgh and he has never beaten the Penguins anywhere as a starter.

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“We’ve done good things,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “For five-and-a-half periods, we like what we did.

“There’s a stretch they’re able to gain some momentum, able to capitalise and be opportunistic and that swung two games in their favour.”