Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was unlike anything we’ve seen all season. It had a 3-0 blowout, a 3-3 nail-biter, an own goal, a 5-on-3, and 37 minutes without a shot on goal for Pittsburgh. It had everything – and in the end, the Penguins survived the Predators, 5-3.
“It was like four games in one,” NHL Network analyst Steve Mears said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We’re trying to figure out what we just saw. We’re trying to figure this out – one of the more bizarre Stanley Cup Final games in recent memory. I think ultimately the X-factor for Pittsburgh is the thing that has been there for them these last couple postseasons, and it keeps showing up: it’s that resiliency and also the experience that they’ve got.”
Pittsburgh scored three goals in the last five minutes of the first period, with Evgeni Malkin, Conor Sheary, and Nick Bonino finding the back of the net. The Penguins, though, allowed three straight goals, including two via power play, before Jake Guentzel scored the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining in the third period. Bonino’s empty-netter capped the scoring, as Pittsburgh won despite recording just 12 shots on goal.
“We learned here again tonight that you do not have to give them many chances,” Mears said. “They don’t need 40 shots. They don’t have to have a bunch of scoring chances on the rush. If you give them just a couple, they’re so dangerous. You’ve got to be so careful and almost play a perfect game against them. So you might give up only 12 shots and just on the surface you think that’s fantastic. But if you give them a couple of looks, they will take advantage – and they did tonight. It was one of the most bizarre games I think we’ve seen all year.”
Nashville, meanwhile, must regroup in a hurry before Game 2 on Wednesday.
“They’ve got a lot to be proud of, but at the end of the day, they lost,” Mears said. “Now the scary thing is you know Pittsburgh is going to be better in Game 2. It’s almost like a wake-up call and they win the first game. It couldn’t be a worse situation for Nashville. There’s a lot of good to take from this one with the way they dominated, the way they battled back, their power play got two goals – there were some positives for Nashville. But unfortunately for them, they’re trailing in the series.”