With both teams dominating at home in these NHL playoffs, Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final takes place tonight from the Steel City at PPG Arena between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The series is tied two games apiece and the home team in this series has won both games. This grueling matchup has now twiddled down to a best-of-three series through the weekend.
The Champions of the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are 9-3 at home in the playoffs while the representatives from the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators, enter tonight’s game with a 9-1 mark at home this postseason.
The Predators controlled the last two games in Nashville, outscoring the Penguins 9-2 in Games 3 and 4 mainly because of the return of form from goaltender Pekka Rinne, who previously struggled in games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh. Arguably the Predators downfall into a 2-0 hole might have been bad luck due to the fact that the Predators outshot the Pens 64-39 in those first two games. Rinne was out of his groove and only stopped 78 percent of the shots he faced. He will start tonight for the Preds.
For the Penguins, head coach Matt Sullivan made the decision to start Matt Murray in between the pipes tonight for the all-pivotal game 5. With injuries and complications, the Penguins have flipped back and forth between veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Murray all season long.
“I know that Matt’s exited to play tonight, he certainly has had the success here at home, we’re hoping we have our best game in front of him,” Sullivan said.
The big playoff push for the Nashville Predators started with the outstanding play of superstar center Ryan Johansen, a player Predators traded for back in January of 2016. Poised to make a lunge at the cup, Johansen’s postseason run came to an end with a severe leg injury on May 18th in a 3-2 OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
“As a teammate it gives me the chills right now,” said Johansen. “Those guys worked so hard for their opportunities, worked their whole lives for the opportunities, and they’re making the best out of it.”
Johansen led the Predators with 13 points in 14 playoff games before getting hurt. However, that hasn’t stopped the leaders of Honkey-Town and their historic postseason run.
With so much yet to be decided in this series it could be the Pittsburgh Penguins hoisting the ancient 123-year-old trophy for the second year as Stanley Cup champions. Or it could very well be the Nashville Predators surging for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The ice gets heated tonight in Pittsburgh and the entire nation will be watching. The puck drops at 6:00p.m. MT. The game will be televised on NBC.