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Steigerwald: Pens Play Worst Playoff Game Ever, Win Anyway



Exterior, NHL season, Pittsburgh Penguins Coronavirus Response
PPG Paints Arena by Jleedev - Own work | CC BY-SA 4.0

When you think about it, does celebrating Christmas in May make any less sense than playing hockey on Memorial Day?

The Penguins should hope to get as many gifts on December 25th as they got Monday night on their way to somehow having a one game to none lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

The first gift was the disallowed goal by P.K. Subban about seven minutes in. After a smart challenge by Mike Sullivan and a ridiculously long, game-deflating review of the video, it was determined that Filip Forsberg’s right skate was about an eighth of an inch off side when the Predators had entered the zone.

It was probably the right call but the 1991, 1992 and 2009 Penguins Cup winners wouldn’t have received such a nice gift because video replay hadn’t evolved to its current level of stupidity.

It was the kind of call that makes me wish for the days when there were no video replays. No team deserves to be saved from a goal because of an after-the-fact decision based on super slo-mo video and an eighth of an inch.

Not long after that, former Penguin James Neal may as well have used a silver platter instead of his stick to cross check Trevor Daley during a delayed penalty call to give the Penguins a two-minute two-man advantage.

Maybe Neal had Daley in the secret Santa.

The Penguins showed a preview of what was to come by not managing a shot for a minute and a half before Evgeni Malkin put one past Pekka Rinne.

The next gift came from Rinne, who somehow poke-checked Nick Bonino’s one handed non-shot on to his defenseman’s shin pad and into the net to make it 3-0.

Admit it.

For at least a few seconds there you were entertaining the idea of the Penguins sweeping the series. You knew Game 1 was over.

But little did you know history was about to be made.

By getting to the Final the Penguins have given everybody a chance to see history being made.

Fifth Cup.

Three Cups for Crosby and Malkin. Probably a second Conn Smythe Award for one of them.

Worst and ugliest win in their history. And not just playoff history. History history.

That’s not something you would expect in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final but there it was.

Twelve shots on goal. Thirty seven minutes, starting with the beginning of the second period, without a shot. I’m way too tired to look it up, but I’d be willing to bet that the 1983-84 Penguins, who went 16-58-6 and allowed the Penguins to have a history by finishing last in order to draft Mario Lemieux, never went 37 minutes without a shot on goal.

The next gift was from Predators defenseman P.K. Subban. He flipped one over the glass for a delay of game penalty with 8:36 left in the game and the Penguins leading 3-2.

The Penguins had a chance to bury them but they managed to go the full two minutes without getting a shot on goal.

It took the Predators four seconds to tie it up after the penalty expired and those visions of a sweep had probably expired, too.

So, somehow the Penguins managed to actually get a goal from Jake Guentzel and win the game.

The Predators have to be feeling good about themselves.

But should they? The Penguins just played their worst playoff game ever and the Predators couldn’t beat them.

Pekka Rinne, who has never beaten the Penguins in nine starts against them, gave up four goals on 11 shots. (He has one win in relief.)

The Penguins are 13-3 in games after a playoff loss under Mike Sullivan.

If you’ve learned anything about playoff hockey, you’ve learned that each game has its own identity. There is no carry over.

If the Predators win Wednesday night and get out of Pittsburgh with a split, they should be thrilled.

If they win and Game 2 looks anything like Game 1, the Predators should be feeling really good about themselves and the Penguins could very well be on their way to making the wrong kind of history.