JOE BIDDLE: Preds drop opener

Photo: WKRN

Sure you are sad your heroes lost the first playoff game in the Stanley Cup Final.

It was 5-3, but it was way closer than that.

Don’t dare count the underdogs out. Don’t leave them. Stand beside them.

The Predators gave up three quick goals in the final minutes of the first period.

They were down 3-1 at the end of the second period, but they were not giving the Penguins any air or room to take shots for a 26-minute drought.

When things were at their bleakest and only 10:24 left in the third period, James Neal came to the rescue with a goal that left them 3-2.

Things brightened for the Predators as Frederick Gaudreau got the tying goal and it seemed the game was headed to overtime. But the Penguins came through in the clutch, scoring what would be the winning score late in the game.

An empty net goal by the Penguins with 62 seconds remaining just was icing on the cake.

The Penguins know they are in a fight for their lives. Your Predators gave every ounce of energy they had.

It took only 20 minutes, actually a lot less than that, to put the Predators in dire straits. The Penguins scored three goals in the final 4:28.
The first eight minutes the Predators were taking the game to the Penguins, but had nothing to show for it.

Then the game turned on the Predators as some ill-advised penalties gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 advantage. The team that had played to that point almost flawless hockey could not stop the Penguins.

With 4:28 left in the first period, Evgeni Malkin scored on a power play with assists from Trevor Daley and Sidney Crosby.

It seemed the Penguins got a shot of adrenalin and quickly added two more goals in the opening period. Connor Sheary scored the second goal, assisted by Chris Kunitz and who else, the Crosby Kid.

As time was running out in the first 20 minutes, Nick Bonino took matters in his own hands and slipped a shot by Pekka Rinne unassisted.

The end of the period could not have come quickly enough. The Predators needed to take a break and assess the situation, the first one they had faced through the playoffs.

It was clear this was not the Western Division champions. Pekka Rinne was under heavy fire and he had only four saves to go with giving up three goals in the first period.

I don’t know what Predators coach Peter Laviolette said during the break, but he got their undivided attention.

Ryan Ellis closed the margin to 3-1 when his shot found the Penguins’ net with assists by P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson.

They still had their work cut out for them as the Penguins were not about to take the gas off. The Penguins did cool off and didn’t have another shot on goal during the first 15 minutes of the period.

Stand beside them, you die-hard Predators fans.

It’s far from over.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.