Predators on brink as Rinne struggles again in Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby has the Pittsburgh Penguins on the verge of back-to-back Stanley Cups. Justin Schultz snuck one through Pekka Rinne's legs. There were two strong back-to-back stops, in particular, on James Neal shortly after Bryan Rust scored the second Pittsburgh goal.

Only 91 seconds had ticked off the clock and the rout was already on.

The "11 Bruins won the last seven-game Cup final with a 4-0 win over Vancouver in the Canucks" Rogers Arena.

"You have those thoughts that why (is) the puck getting deflected in off our guys or something like that", Rinne said Saturday.

The biggest factor for the Predators in game three and four was the way goaltender Pekka Rinne regained his form.

Yet the goalie and the Predators stand between Pittsburgh and a big chunk of history.

Yet somehow, despite those prognostications and obstacles, the Penguins are one win away from their second straight Stanley Cup championship, what would be the third of the Sidney Crosby era. There was some debate whether Murray should be back in the net for Game 5, with some arguing that Marc-Andre Fleury should take over.

Halfway through the playoffs, a former league executive lamented, "the best team is not going to win the Cup this year. the Penguins are simply running on fumes and won't be able to finish it off". The first came in the second round and on the road against the President's Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, the next a double-overtime epic in the conference final against the Senators.

After dropping Games 3 and 4 by a combined 9-2 margin, the Penguins came out like a bunch determined to wrestle back control of the final and inch one step closer to back-to-back Cups.

Conor Sheary, Phil Kessel - just as linemate Malkin predicted - and 35-year-old playoff newbie Ron Hainsey also scored for the Penguins.

Yet there's been no question that Rinne, who has never won a start in Pittsburgh, will be in net Sunday night. "If they don't, then we just gotta move forward". "We know how good he can be". "We know who we're facing, in their building". The period ended 9-9.

Ellis did not skate Saturday, though several Predators did not take the ice in an optional practice. He spent his first six seasons with the Preds before they shipped him to Pittsburgh in June 2014. It's the third consecutive game he has missed with a left foot or ankle injury.

Crosby set up three of the first five Penguins' goals, got into a wrestling match with P.K. Subban that set the stage for Evgeni Malkin's back-breaking goal and also heaved a water bottle onto the ice to protest a slash on teammate Chris Kunitz from Predators' defenceman Mattias Ekholm. Nashville CEO and President Sean Henry went on local radio and called a Pittsburgh reporter a "schmuck" for saying Bridgestone Arena pumps in noise to make it seem louder. "And when they do that, they're hard to defend".

Rinne has looked like a completely different player on the road than at home in the Stanley Cup Final.

Erixon hasn't played a game for the Penguins since coming over - spending the last two seasons with their AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins notching 37 points in 119 regular season games.

"We know we can be a lot better", Predators' captain Mike Fisher said.

  • Angelo Rivera