The Penguins pounded the Predators on Thursday night in the kind of game where the winning team looks virtually unbeatable. Such a one-sided game can make it seem that, if these teams played another dozen times, the same team might just win all of them.
In reality, we know that's not true. The Predators, for one thing, have beaten the Penguins twice in the past week, and had been the better team for much of the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final. And so far in this postseason, a blowout victory has hardly guaranteed success in the next game. Quite the opposite, in fact: All three teams that have lost a game by six or more goals this spring bounced back to win the next contest.
But the Penguins didn't just win Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final by a score of 6-0, scoring all six goals before the second period had ended. They did it against a team whose defense is its greatest strength. Yes, Preds goalie Pekka Rinne has had issues (on the road, at least) in this series, and didn't make it past the first intermission in this game. But this was a total team meltdown, and Nashville coach Peter Laviolette was careful not to place too much blame on his netminder when asked what he said to Rinne after a game like this.
"I know we've got to be better in front of him. If you go back and look at the goals and the way they were scored, you give up a power play early on, the next two we need better coverage. There's things we can do better in front of him. I don't think that necessarily they were bad goals. One of them he was completely screened. Like I said, there's coverage that's missed after that. We'll look to clean that up and be better next game."
Sidney Crosby was outstanding in Game 5, tallying three assists, including this beauty on Conor Sheary's goal early in the second period:
Sheary goal pic.twitter.com/jbrWqvyKeX- steph (@myregularface) June 9, 2017
He was also involved in the strangest moment of the night, throwing a water bottle onto the ice as Nashville carried the puck through the neutral zone, in what he says was an accident:
chronology of thrown water bottle incident pic.twitter.com/GD7mHuzCOm- steph (@myregularface) June 9, 2017
But if Game 5 had to be summed up in a single GIF, it would be this one of Crosby repeatedly banging P.K. Subban's head into the ice, leading to roughing penalties for both players.
subban and crosby at it again pic.twitter.com/BgpsT3yarn- steph (@myregularface) June 9, 2017
It was that kind of night for Nashville. Predators fans have been great in this postseason, but they could only take so much on Thursday:
SO MANY SAD FANS. pic.twitter.com/QavfYoXx3I- Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) June 9, 2017
Predators fans before and during Game 5 pic.twitter.com/028dpOef9M- SB Nation (@SBNation) June 9, 2017
Nashville, at least, can take solace in this. For as dominant as Pittsburgh was in Game 5 -- from its mega-stars on down -- if ever there were a series where a change in scenery could make a difference, it's this one. The electric atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena has been well-documented during these playoffs, and during the Final in particular. But both of these teams have been scary good at home this spring. The Preds are 9-1 at home in this postseason, while the Pens are now 10-3.
Indeed, while the Penguins can't be much happier with how they played in Game 5, momentum doesn't necessarily carry over from game to game, especially in a weird series like this one, and especially with two full days off before Game 6. That said, if home ice really is the biggest factor in this series, Pittsburgh still has the safety net of hosting a Game 7, should it be necessary. And if the Pens can push the pace and overwhelm Nashville the way they did on Thursday night, they could be returning to Pittsburgh as the first defending champions in nearly two decades.