NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Pekka Rinne made 23 saves, including at least three to keep his team in the game, as the Nashville Predators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in Game 4 to even the Stanley Cup Final at 2-2 on Monday.
How it happened: After a tight first period in which the teams combined for 13 shots, Calle Jarnkrok stuffed in a rebound from in tight to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. The goal was challenged by the Penguins because of goaltender interference, but officials called it a goal after reviewing the play. Sidney Crosby, of all people, broke in alone off a sharp pass from defenseman Brian Dumoulin to tie it just 66 seconds later with a crazy fake of Rinne that had people thinking Crosby was back. It was Crosby’s first goal in a Stanley Cup Final since Game 4 against the Detroit Red Wings in 2009.
But Rinne took over from there. In the second period, he denied a point-blank shot by playoff scoring machine Jake Guentzel on the power play and then on a Chris Kunitz breakaway shortly thereafter, making two spectacular saves to keep the score tied in what could end up being the turning point in the series. Sixteen seconds after the second save, Frederick Gaudreau then capitalized on the momentum with a wraparound that wasn’t a goal until it was reviewed, and the Preds had seized the lead. And then, when Rinne somehow stopped Crosby on a breakaway, then Crosby’s rebound, then two diving saves off the scramble, the momentum never swung back. Four minutes later, Viktor Arvidsson took a one-handed flip pass up the middle from a falling Mike Fisher and beat Matt Murray to pad the Preds’ lead to 3-1.
Barry Melrose’s take: Very similar to Game 3: The Predators got great goaltending. Pekka made saves on Crosby, Guenztel and Kunitz when it was 1-1, then they scored on the wraparound. Defensively, they were rock solid again, holding the Penguins to 17 shots halfway through the third period. It was a great second effort on the Arvidsson goal by Fisher to get that puck to Arvidsson, who scored on the short side on the breakaway. For the Penguins, it showed they’re playing against a good team. I don’t think anyone thought it would be a four-game sweep. Pittsburgh now has to go home — where it’s been very, very good — and win. These two games really showed everyone how good the Predators can be and that they’re for real.
Key stat: Gaudreau has three career NHL goals — all in these Stanley Cup Finals. He has played a total of 15 games — playoffs and regular season — in the NHL. Gaudreau is the third undrafted rookie since 1979 to score at least three goals in the Finals. The others were Dino Ciccarelli in 1981 for the North Stars and Ville Leino in 2010 for the Flyers. (Courtesy ESPN Stats & Information.)
What’s next: The series is all knotted up, and Game 5 is Thursday in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m. ET.