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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press The play of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped Pittsburgh on two goals in Games 3 and 4, was the big difference the Predators were able to tie the series at two games apiece, heading back to Pittsburgh, according to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017 1:00 am

Stanley Cup Final

Penguins home, confident

Doing right things despite losing edge

WILL GRAVES | Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – The goals that came so easily to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final – the ones that arrived in bunches and seemed to signal an emphatic end to Pekka Rinne's spectacular playoff run – have disappeared.

During six periods in Nashville, the NHL's highest-scoring team managed to beat Rinne just twice as the Predators rallied to tie the series. Yet Penguins coach Mike Sullivan hardly seems frustrated heading into Game 5 on Thursday night back home in Pittsburgh.

Sullivan is 7-0 in series with the Penguins, and the way he sees it, his team's inability to solve Rinne in Games 3 and 4 had little to do with lack of effort or opportunities. It had everything to do with a remarkable performance by the 34-year-old goaltender.

Where do you want to start? With Rinne's no-look left pad stop on Jake Guentzel early in the second period of a tie game on Monday night? Maybe the one about a minute later when Rinne denied Chris Kunitz on a breakaway? Or maybe the diving blocker stop on Guentzel just before the midway point, the one that preserved Nashville's lead on the way to a 4-1 victory?

Sullivan understands it's easy to look at the result and be discouraged. That's not his job. The coach who has made “play the right way” part of the franchise's lexicon is more focused on the process. The Penguins didn't produce much in Games 1 and 2 and somehow won going away. They “got to their game” (another of Sullivan's favorite mantras) repeatedly in Game 4 only to lose.

It's hockey. It happens.

“We believe that we have some guys that are due to score some goals here,” Sullivan said Tuesday. “They've had some high-quality chances, and the puck hasn't gone in the net for the last couple of games. We believe if we continue to try to do the right things out there, we'll score.”

Game 4 marked the sixth time in their last 11 games the Penguins have scored just one goal, compared to just twice in 24 playoff games last spring.

“It just comes down to burying your chances,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who scored his first goal of the series in Game 4.

What the Penguins are saying now sounds a lot like what the Predators were saying after coming up empty in Pittsburgh to start the final. Nashville was every bit the defending champ's equal in the opening two games only to be undone by a pair of dominant bursts by the Penguins.