Frederick Gaudreau, Predators - Gaudreau joined John Harms (1944 Chicago Blackhawks) as the only two players in National Hockey League history to score their first three career goals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Viktor Arvidsson's goal on an odd-man rush with 6:25 remaining in the second period gave Nashville a 3-1 edge. Save for a pair of flurries (one at the end of the first period in Game 1, the other at the beginning of the third period in Game 2) Nashville has been every bit Pittsburgh's equal.
The Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-three, and the Penguins are upbeat and confident heading into Game 5.
In order to claim the Stanley Cup, the Nashville Predators need to win two of the next three games.
Two tight calls went against Murray and the Penguins. Goalie Matt Murray lost consecutive games for the first time in his young career. That might seem to put the pressure on Pittsburgh, the defending Cup champion, playing at home in Game 5. Former NBA star and TV commentator Charles Barkley also was on hand, accepting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's invitation to watch in person. He turned 27 on Monday.
After the Penguins started the series with two victories over Nashville at home, they proceeded to post a couple of duds on the road to even up the series. The Penguins thought Craig Smith interfered with Murray with a slash and by bumping into the goalie's head, but the goal was ruled legal.
Just 66 seconds later, Crosby tied it up for Pittsburgh on a dazzling breakaway.
The goal had to be reviewed, but Frederick Gaudreau added one of his own to make it 2-1, less than four minutes into the period. Rinne was flat out spectacular from there on, particularly in the second period when he stopped breakaways by Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Gaudreau scored what proved to be the game victor early in the second period but his wraparound goal was only awarded after a random horn sounded 35 seconds later to stop play and initiate a video review.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette was so concerned that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would take criticism to heart that he wanted everyone to stop talking about it. He's proven that it would have been a awful mistake to switch goalies when the series shifted to Nashville.
The Predators are the 13th team to even the Cup final at 2-2 after falling behind, 2-0, and the first since the 2011 Bruins against Vancouver.
And yet, as good of a playmaker as he is, Kessel is at his most unsafe when he's being selfish with the puck and firing shots from everywhere on the ice - something his teammates are encouraging him to do even more often than he has been. To me anyway. In the third period they looked exhausted, maybe confused, or just frustrated. We've got - we think, one of the strengths of our team is in our goaltending position.
Penalties - Hornqvist Pgh (tripping) 7:15; Neal Nash (interference) 19:18.
Goal - Pittsburgh: Murray (L, 5-3-0).
Rinne was masterful in Nashville's 4-1 win, and he needed to be.
The Preds also contained the Penguins in the wins, holding them to just two goals while snuffing out six power-play attempts.
Referees - Dan O'Halloran, Kevin Pollock.
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