Pittsburgh (2-0) at Nashville (0-2)
When: Saturday, June 3rd 2017
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: NBC
The Nashville Predators hope a change of scenery brings different results on the scoreboard as they host Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night in the first ever Finals game in Nashville. The Predators outplayed the Penguins for much of the first two games, outshooting the defending champs 64-39, only to be outscored 9-4. The biggest factor in the Predators’ run to the Cup has been the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne, but he’s also why they’re in an 0-2 hole heading back home. Through two games against Pittsburgh, Rinne has allowed eight goals on 36 shots for a shocking 0.738 save percentage. If Nashville has any hope of climbing back into the series, they’ll need their goalie to be much better going forward. Although coach Peter Laviolette “politely” reiterated Friday that he and his coaching staff do not publicly discuss lineup changes, Rinne likely will be in net for Game 3 despite his struggles in the first two games. The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist has allowed just 13 goals en route to winning seven of eight playoff games at Bridgestone Arena to go along with a 1.54 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. Nashville is 7-1 this postseason at home and have won 11 of 12 overall playoff games at Bridgestone Arena. Center Filip Forsberg leads the team with eight goals and 15 points in the playoffs, but has been held off the scoresheet and is a -2 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins used a third period barrage to put away the Predators in Game 2 led by rookie Jake Guentzel. Pittsburgh needed just more than 3 minutes at the start of the third to turn a 1-1 game into a runaway, chasing Rinne three times in the 4-1 victory in inch closer to becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back titles. It started with Guentzel, who was mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series. The 22-year old Nebraskan pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third period for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs. It was one second shy of the fastest goal to start a period in Finals history. While Guentzel leads the league in goals, fellow forward Evgeni Malkin added to his advantage in points (26) by scoring a goal in his second straight game on Wednesday and has recorded six points (three goals, three assists) in his past five games. Chris Kunitz has caught fire by matching a career high with three straight multi-point performances in the playoffs, during which he has collected two goals and five assists. Goalie Matt Murray turned away 38 of 39 shots on Wednesday to improve to 5-1 this postseason after taking the reigns away from Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray has a 1.54 goals against average in seven games.
Rinne is struggling and he’s never beaten Pittsburgh. I believe you have to start him in this situation, but he should be on a short leash. If the Predators play with the same intensity they did in Pittsburgh and Rinne is himself again, they can tie this series back up. I’m not confident that Rinne can do it. I think he’s lost his mojo and the Penguins own him right now. I’m taking the Penguins in this one.
Pick: Penguins +115
HEAD TO HEAD
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