The victory continued the trend in this series of the home team winning. The winner of Game 5 in a series that was previously tied 2-2 has gone on to win the Cup 17 of 24 times.
How it happened: The Penguins came out flying, taking the play to the Predators from the opening faceoff. Before the ice was dry, Crosby busted through two defensemen and rang one off the post, announcing his presence with authority. Shortly thereafter, Justin Schultz, with a flutterball from the point off a Crosby setup during a power play earned when Crosby drew the penalty, and Bryan Rust, with a beautiful top-shelf backhander, scored to give the Penguins the early 2-0 lead and quickly put the Predators on their heels in a hostile building. Then, with 10.2 seconds left in the first, Evgeni Malkin finished a great Phil Kessel pass to make it 3-0 before the end of 20 minutes. It would be the last action of the night for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who was replaced for the second period by Juuse Saros.
To start the second, the Penguins picked up where they left off, Crosby with a great behind-the-back pass in front to a solo Conor Sheary, who made no mistake and scored. The romp continued … to the point where minimal-scoring defenseman Ron Hainsey got the last goal, finishing off a nifty Malkin pass through P.K. Subban‘s legs to make it 6-0.
Lean, mean and Listerine: The rivalry between Crosby and Predators defenseman Subban heated up early while behind the Predators net, with Crosby grinding Subban’s helmeted head to the ice a number of times before Subban got up and put Crosby into a headlock. Both earned holding minors for their actions. Crosby later took the nasty to another level when he threw a water bottle in the direction of Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm after Ekholm swung his stick and missed Chris Kunitz behind the play. Crosby — who was on the bench, by the way — was not penalized for that one.
Crosby finished the night with three assists and a plus-2; Subban had no points and was minus-2.
Key stat: With 20 points, Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for the most points by a Penguins player in the Stanley Cup Final (ESPN Stats & Info).
Conn Smythe rankings: 1. Sidney Crosby, Penguins: Crosby’s effort in Game 5 was as clutch as it gets, temporarily pushing some of his relatively forgettable efforts when the series was in Nashville to the background; 2. Jake Guentzel, Penguins; 3. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins; 4. Pekka Rinne, Predators; 5. Roman Josi, Predators.
What’s next: The Penguins have a chance to win the fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history and capture the first back-to-back Cup wins in the salary-cap era (since 2005) when Game 6 travels to the madhouse in Nashville on Sunday. Game time is 8 p.m. ET.