The goalies were the story of Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final, with both Pekka Rinne and Matt Murray standing on their heads. The catfish toss won’t see another day, as the Penguins become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings in the late 1990’s.
First Period – Predators come out hot
The atmosphere was, as it has been throughout the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, electric inside and outside of Bridgestone Arena. The Nashville Predators fed off this atmosphere and played a very composed and high-paced style of hockey. The Pittsburgh Penguins matched the pace and had a couple of quality opportunities of their own.
As has been the case for much of the finals, Nashville were hitting hard and often, leading in hits 13-to-3 halfway through the period. Despite that disparity usually meaning the leading team is chasing the game, that wasn’t at all the case. At the same point in time, the Predators lead in shots five to four.
Nashville was also the first beneficiary of a poor play by the opponent and got the first man advantage at 13:14 thanks to an interference call on Ian Cole. However, the zone entries for the Predators on the powerplay were nothing short of poor, and they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunity.
Aside from all of this, the biggest talking point of the first period was the play of Pekka Rinne. Rinne looked comfortable coming out of the net to play the puck at every opportunity. And when tested with a few decent shots, and Penguins players crashing the net, it didn’t seem to phase Rinne. Nashville will be wondering why they couldn’t get this same version of Rinne in the three games in Pittsburgh to this point.
Second Period – Murray and Rinne go save-for-save
The second period started much the same way the first 20 minutes did, and the Predators came out hot. At the 1:07 mark Filip Forsberg took a soft wrist shot into the bread basket of Matt Murray, where it slipped under his arm and into the blue paint where Colton Sissons pushed the puck into the net. Unfortunately for them, the referee apparently lost sight of the puck and blew play dead. No goal.
The second man advantage of the game went for the Predators as well. Once again, the Predators were unable to capitalize on the opportunity. The zone entries were drastically improve from the first powerplay, but the final pass wasn’t there and they couldn’t test Murray enough to take a lead in Game Six.
Matt Murray looked dead set to go save-for-save with Rinne in Game Six, making a few big saves during the second period. The breakaway that Murray saved on Colton Sissons approximately halfway through the second period kept the Penguins even, proving the 23-year old isn’t fazed by the biggest stage in hockey.
Despite a full flurries of shots from both teams, neither side was able to break the deadlock. It is games like Game Six that prove that goals aren’t a prerequisite for good hockey.
Neither of the goalies faced a ton of shots, but both of them played their parts in keeping this game even. Murray continued his solid play and Rinne continued to confuse with his night-and-day performances away and home.
The third period played much the same time as the first 40 minutes, with end-to-end hockey being played. Lots of giveaways, lots of passing, and lots of offensive zone entries. Truly hockey to admire in such a massive game for the NHL and both organizations respectively.
The Predators continued to press and skate hard, drawing another tripping penalty for their third powerplay. Just as the clock was winding down on the powerplay, Trevor Daley was penalized for a punch to the face. Five-on-three hockey followed, and the Nashville Predators got their fair share of chances with the two-man and one-man advantage. Still no goal.
Despite the opportunities that Nashville had, the Pittsburgh Penguins wouldn’t be denied their back-to-back Stanley Cups. Patric Hornqvist fielded the puck off a rebound from the boards and poked the puck to bounce it off the back of Rinne to score the game winner.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998.