Technically still a rookie, the Pittsburgh netminder has just led his team to a 4-1 win over Nashville in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, putting him on the verge of possibly hoisting the coveted trophy, not for the first time in his short career, but the second. They dropped the first two games of the series despite outshooting the Pittsburgh Penguins in each, and they know they must win Game 3 in order to have a chance of getting back into the series.
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. Guentzel's go-ahead goal 10 seconds into the third period slammed the door shut on Game 2. Evgeni Malkin's goal to give the Penguins a three-goal lead came just 15 seconds after Scott Wilson had made it 3-1. Mired in an eight-game goal drought heading into the series, the 22-year-old Nebraskan provided the victor in Game 1 and again in Game 2 when he pounded home a rebound just 10 seconds into the third for his third of the series and 12th of the playoffs. He trails only Dino Ciccarelli for the most goals by a rookie in a single postseason. You don't feel as good about yourself. Rinne allowed four goals on only 12 shots in a wacky Game 1 to the Penguins, then followed up that performance with the third period to forget. Now they go in tied 1-1.
At least, fans recognized Steve Carlson and his brother as the Hanson Brothers from "Slap Shot" fame when they busted into one Hockey 101 lesson. Three minutes and 28 seconds into the third period, Rinne was done after surrendering a fourth goal on a perfectly placed shot by Malkin.
The outburst marked a turnaround for a Penguins team that had been struggling on offense. Guentzel's now up to 19 points and a playoff-leading 12 goals. Pittsburgh C Nick Bonino needed assistance to the locker room after blocking a shot off of his left ankle area in the first but returned.
"Pittsburgh is very content to put the puck along the wall and have their wingers win those battles and have speed coming underneath it to create rush opportunities", he said.
A disheartened Predators squad returns home searching for answers after losing in Pittsburgh in two games they otherwise dominated.
"In the times that we haven't controlled play, he's been our best player out there in keeping them off the board", Penguins winger Chris Kunitz said of Murray.
The Predators have held opponents to two or fewer goals in six of their eight post-season home dates while outscoring visitors by a 25-13 margin.
Should the country music superstar and wife of the Predators' appropriately-named captain, Mike Fisher, get in on the act - she said on Twitter she wouldn't - it would be the culmination of several years of Music City developing its own unique hockey culture by turning to its cherished local traditions. "We want to score more".