The powerful Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, against the Nashville Predators, the final team to get into the playoffs. He also managed to pull through for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, after winning the first two games and losing Game 3.
The script has flipped when it comes to goaltenders Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville's Pontus Aberg and Pittsburgh's Scott Wilson have the other two.
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. Game 5 will naturally be a key game for both teams, but an argument could be made that it's bigger for the Penguins as losing Thursday night would mean facing elimination in Nashville.
"We've got to be better in front of him", Laviolette said. I think we have to play with conviction. Our guys have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. After combining for zero points in Games 3 and 4, Malkin had a goal and an assist and Kessel a goal and two assists. Maatta is second among Pittsburgh defenders with two goals, and Daley is the Penguins' best puck-moving defenseman when he's fully healthy. We play here, at home.
Everything that followed from that moment on was just window-dressing, preparation for Sunday's sixth game, when the Stanley Cup will be in the Bridgestone Arena, there for the taking if Pittsburgh can find a way to earn a road victory.
The vibe inside PPG Paints Arena for Game 5 on Thursday night figures to be more anxious than anticipatory after the Predators evened the series at 2-2 with a pair of vintage performances on home ice that sent "Smashville" into a frenzy and delivered a very clear message that the first-timers are a clear threat to become first-time winners. Or can the Predators build off dominant efforts in games three and four and break through on the road. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel were among the six different goal-scorers for the Penguins, who are now one win away from becoming the first repeat Cup victor in nearly 20 years. Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust scored their first goals of the series. "It's a big game".
It was a familiar showing for Rinne. Penguins F Nick Bonino missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury.
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Rinne returns to Pittsburgh, where he was shelled in the first two games of the series and is 0-5 with a 4.85 goals-against average and.833 save percentage over his National Hockey League career. Only five players were held off the scoresheet for Pittsburgh.
"If anything we just need to press a little more", Cullen said. "We've gone through fire drills in the past couple years because the Predators have been growing in strength, and it's something we've always watched carefully and had a backup plan we were ready to execute and we were happy to do it". "We have to win a road game".
"It's kind of an "ignorance is bliss" kind of mentality", said Penguins forward Conor Sheary, who had four goals and six assists in 23 games as a 24-year-old rookie during Pittsburgh's 2016 Cup run. The Predators goalie, who gave up two goals in as many games in Nashville, surrended two goals in his first six minutes Thursday.
"He was doing some UFC move on my foot", Crosby said.
"I don't know if I was arrogant as a kid, but there is certainly pressure". Malkin figured Subban and Ekholm, as well as Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, were "tired for sure" with each logging 24-26 minutes per game.
And then Jake Guentzel snapped that by scoring on the first shot against Pekka Rinne since the first period and that turned out to be the victor.
Only three games were decided by three goals or more in the Final over the previous five years. There will be another three days before Game 6 back at Nashville and then, if necessary, another three days until Game 7 at Pittsburgh on June 14. Who will come out on top and win the 2016-17 Stanley Cup?