By Scott Taylor
Pens Win Opener
It was, perhaps, the strangest game ever played in a Stanley Cup final. Or, maybe, at any other time of any other season. To put into some kind of orderly fashion, all of this took place:
- The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins took a 3-0 lead into the second period, blew it and came back to win 5-3.
- During the Predators comeback, the Penguins – the highest-scoring team in the playoffs this season — went almost two full periods (37 minutes in total) without a single shot on goal.
- The Penguins scored their five goals in only 10 shots against the best goaltender in the playoffs this season. In fact, until Monday night, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne was the odds-on favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the playoffs.
- A man threw a catfish on the ice. He was charged with public mischief, a charge that could result in six years in prison.
- The eventual winning goal was scored by Jake Guentzel, a kid from Omaha who played for Hill Murray High School, and spent half of this season with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. When brought up with 40 games left in the season, they put him on a line with Sidney Crosby. He suddenly became a scoring sensation and now has 10 goals and 17 points in 20 playoff games this spring. Guentzel’s winning goal came seconds after Nashville’s James Neal hit the post at the other end.
- Nashville’s first goal by PK Subban was called back because the officials (or somebody) decided that Filip Forsberg was a teeny, teeny, tin half-skateblade offside. I still haven’t seen how he was offside and I’ve watched the play two dozen times.
After all that, Nashville forward Colton Sissons put the strange night in perspective.
“Nothing surprises me in this game anymore, honestly,” Sissons said. “You just never know.”
Man, this was a strange one. After Evgeni Malkin (15:32), Conor Sheary (16:37) and Nick Bonino (19:43) scored the first three goals for Pittsburgh in a span of four minutes and 11 seconds at the end of the first period.
Then, in the second period, Ryan Ellis scored to make it 3-1 and then, in the third, Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau, made it 3-3 with just six and a half minutes to play.
But then Guentzel scored his 10th of the playoffs at 16:43 and Bonino tallied his second of the night into an empty net at 18:58 and the Pens had drawn first blood despite the fact they had no shots in the second period, only four in the third and only 12 on the night.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Penguins centre Sidney Crosby said of his team’s lull, which spanned the entire second period. “I think you’re just hoping to get a shot on net and see what happens.”
Teams that win Game 1 of the Final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 60 of 77 seasons (78 per cent) since the league introduced the best-of-seven format in 1939. The last team to win the Stanley Cup after dropping the opening game of the series was the 2011 Boston Bruins when they came back to beat Vancouver.
Game 2 will be played Wednesday night at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. If it’s half as crazy as Game 1, it will be just like watching the circus.