This one the Penguins deserved. The excitement in "Smashville" over their wild-card team should reach a new level Saturday night when the Predators host their first Final with Game 3 against Pittsburgh, which leads the series 2-0.
True, though for the majority of Game 1, the competition was pretty one-sided. But the biggest takeaway on this night was that the Penguins are the most explosive team in hockey, at times breathtaking with their quick-strike ability.
The game was tied at 1 at the start of the third period when Guentzel jumped on a rebound 10 seconds into the period to put Pittsburgh ahead. "Overall these two games, like I said, it's disappointing to be down 2-0 but we have to be feeling still positive with the way we played as a whole and creating chances".
"It's frustrating in the sense that we haven't gotten on the board with a win yet", Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters on Thursday. "They're a very opportunistic team, a high-skilled team, and we have to limit our mistakes". And while the Predators desperately need Rinne to rebound and return to form, they also need a way to keep Guentzel, who scored his leading 11th and 12th goals of the playoffs, off the scoresheet.
Pittsburgh's third-period onslaught took a game that was tied at the second intermission and broke it wide open. For the playoffs, the 22-year-old forward has 12 goals, setting the record for an American-born player in the playoffs. Phil Kessel's shot bounding in front of Pekka Rinne and off Scott Wilson before Vernon Fiddler slammed into Rinne, jamming the puck into his own net. Just over three minutes later, the Penguins scored two goals 15 seconds apart to cap a Game 2 victory. In that game, the Predators seized momentum until the reigning champs snatched it away late. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat victor since Detroit in 1998.
The feel-good story of the 2017 National Hockey League playoffs has been the Predators, with goaltender Pekka Rinne as the backbone for their run from No. 8 seed in the West to the Stanley Cup Final. They don't win games with 12 shots and going 37 minutes without one period. Obviously it's not the situation we wanted to be coming here.
The Predators needed Rinne to stay in peak form to beat the Penguins.
Every time they've been beaten badly during these playoffs-once by Washington and once by Ottawa-they have responded with the resolve of champions.
The night looked to get off to a promising start.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has issued a statement saying the charges against 36-year-old Nolensville resident Jacob Waddell might have been a little too harsh.
The Predators actually had a lead in this game, if you can believe it.
The Penguins answered back with Guentzel's first goal, a flip of the puck that somehow hit off of Rinne's chest and in on the near post.
Rinne entered the series with a.947 save percentage in the postseason.
Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. "And we'll see what happens from there", he said. "At the end of each period is a big point in any game, and we were able to weather that storm".
It's not much. Unless you're playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The result of two games in Pittsburgh is that the Preds are in trouble for the first time in this postseason.
Just call it a bucket list item - even for those who can't get inside Bridgestone Arena - with the outdoor watch parties and star Alan Jackson giving a free concert before Game 3.
That's not the case anymore, as Rinne has struggled in his first two Stanley Cup games.