PITTSBURGH — After the defending champs were held without a shot over a span lasting almost 37 minutes, Jake Guentzel finally put a puck on net for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The shot beat Pekka Rinne to undo a lengthy stretch of dominance by the Nashville Predators, who tied the game on goals by Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau to overcome an early 3-0 deficit. Guentzel’s goal with 3:17 remaining in regulation propelled Pittsburgh to a 5-3 win to take Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino scored in the first and Sidney Crosby collected two assists in the opening period. Bonino later added an empty-netter to close the scoring. Goalie Matt Murray made 23 saves, while Rinne stopped seven of 11 Pittsburgh shots. The Penguins’ 12 total shots are the fewest ever by a winner in the finals.
How it happened: Nashville dominated for long stretches, but Game 1 came down to a clumsy 4:11 stretch that proved catastrophic for the Predators. During that span, Pittsburgh feasted on a series of Nashville errors, starting with James Neal‘s undisciplined cross-checking penalty that, coupled with Calle Jarnkrok‘s interference call, left the Predators down two men.
On the advantage, Malkin’s one-timer clipped Rinne’s glove before trickling into the net with 4:28 remaining in the period.
Less than a minute later, Yannick Weber‘s soft clearing attempt was intercepted by the Penguins’ Brian Dumoulin, who started a sequence of tape-to-tape passes that ended with Sheary’s goal with 3:23 left in the first. Finally, Bonino’s late, one-handed, cross-ice heave bounced off Rinne’s stick, then off Mattias Ekholm‘s leg into the net.
Scored with just 17 seconds remaining in the first, Bonino’s bizarre goal put the Predators in a 3-0 hole.
Controversy: After dominating play early, Nashville appeared to open the scoring 7:13 into the game. Left alone at the point with the puck, P.K. Subban waited an extra second before beating Murray to the far post with a wrist shot. But the Penguins challenged the play, claiming Filip Forsberg was offside on the preceding zone entry. A video review overturned the goal, sending the hometown crowd into an uproar. The Predators’ evening turned sour shortly after that.
What’s next: These teams will renew acquaintances in Game 2, which takes place Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) at PPG Paints Arena. Down 1-0 in the Cup Final, the Predators will look to steal home-ice advantage before hosting the first Cup Final game in franchise history on Saturday in Game 3.