The Pittsburgh Penguins made a resounding statement in Game 5 with 6-0 pounding of the Nashville Predators. The Pens came to play from the beginning, opening the scoring barrage just two minutes into the game. Nashville looked lost on all accounts. Rinne was pulled after three goals in the first, but the switch didn't change their fortunes. The Game 6 elimination game is going back to Nashville, where Predators need to get their groove back fast if they are to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in Pittsburgh.
Penguins Power Flourished
Sidney Crosby and company came to play on Thursday night. Crosby and Malkin lead the charge with a forceful attack of a surprisingly soft Nashville team in Game 5. The Penguins looked like giants on the ice—after four consecutively mediocre games, the monstrous Penguins arose. It had been a rough final for the Pittsburgh team that had to have felt a little lucky the series was tied. However, the Pens had smooth puck movement and a ferocious defense last game. They easily capitalized on the numerous Nashville miscues. Crosby was the leader in this movement—getting a goal and two assists, he was all over the ice and creating havoc. Crosby kept control of the game and instilled fear in the Preds for the first time all series. While putting his dirty move on Subban and bottle-throwing aside, Crosby needs to keep this up one more game for them to clean the series up at six games and take home another championship.
Officiating must improve
While the refs didn't influence the outcome of the game given the Predators were snoozing from the start, the officiating has to be better. Calls were inconsistent and widely erratic. Crosby was given only a minor penalty for stuffing a helpless Subban into the ice with a referee within five feet of the action. The incredulous part was Subban was penalized for the play as well. In another instance, Crosby was seen throwing a bottle onto the ice but given no penalty. While it was not in the midst of the action, it preceded a goal that should have not been awarded. A third instance showed Forsberg getting checked in front of Murray by Maatta, but only Forsberg was given the penalty. The problem with all of these calls were not just the calls themselves, but also the momentum changes. It shut down any and all opportunities the Predators had of staging a comeback. All three of those instances had drastic changes in the game. When the game got chippy in the third, it was clear the officials had lost all control over the game. With an important Game 6 tonight, they have to do better.
Nashville needs to stay true to their identity
The Preds made a massive mistake of playing into the Penguins style last game. When the game started to look out of hand midway through the first period, Nashville changed their play to become my physical and aggressive. However, the Predators are not built to match the size of the Penguins or their physicality. It showed. Nasvhille got bullied on the ice. The Penguins defense overshadowed any offensive possession the Preds had. Murray was calm and collected in goal because no actual movement was happening. On the other side, the Predators must play smarter. There was no communication in Game 5, and the defense struggled to close out on the Penguin wings.
While Nashville has a magnificent fan base and will be ready to force a Game 7 to bring the cup home for the first time, the Penguins broke from their stupor and are ready to seal the deal. The Penguins will be overpowering and will create too many shot opportunities against Rinne. Pittsburgh should get ready to celebrate.
Game 6 Prediction: Penguins 5, Predators 2