PITTSBURGH – The night started with a catfish throw.
It ended with haymaker after haymaker – both literal and proverbial – from the ever resilient Pittsburgh Penguins.
The defending champions provided an emphatic and repeated reminder of what makes them such a difficult out in a 6-0 demolition of the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to take a 3-2 lead.
Pittsburgh will have a chance to become the first franchise in 19 years to win back to back Cups when the series shifts back to Nashville for Game 6 on Sunday night.
The Predators can't get back to Smashville fast enough.
Justin Schultz, Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin scored during a first-period barrage against Pekka Rinne that sent the Nashville goaltender to the bench for the rest of the night, all the good mojo he created during a pair of wins in Games 3 and 4 gone.
Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel – just as linemate Malkin predicted – and 35-year-old playoff newbie Ron Hainsey also scored for the Penguins. Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby's night included three assists, a two-minute roughing penalty for trying to dribble Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban's head on the ice near the end of the first period and a flip of a water bottle onto the ice during play.
Matt Murray bounced back from so-so performances during Pittsburgh's lost weekend in Nashville to make 24 stops while also benefiting from a dominant performance by the guys in front of him.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as he has for each of the last two springs when his team finds itself in a tight spot, pushed all the right buttons again.