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TimeJun 5, 2017

Penguins v Predators - Game 3 Highlights - Welcome to the Jungle

Photo: John Crouch/Icon Sportswire

In game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Penguins trailed the Predators in play-by-play contributions by 12%, and won 5-3.

In game two, the Penguins rallied in the third period to lead the Predators in play-by-play contributions by 7%, and won 4-1.

In game three at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the Penguins trailed the Predators by only 9% in the first period, but the Predators fed off their crowd and played their best hockey of the series in the final two periods to finish the game with an 81% advantage, and a 5-1 victory.

On route to that substantial out performance, the Predators dominated even strength play by 42% and contributed five times as much as the Penguins on the power play.

It was also the first game in the series where the Predators created more offense than the Penguins on the rush.

The Predators biggest accomplishment in game three may have been pressuring the Penguins into poor puck management. Pittsburgh’s weighted turnovers increased three times the level of the first two games and increased the strain on Pittsburgh’s defensemen and goaltending, which resulted in a 76% increase in defensive mistakes.

Much has been made about the Predators out playing the Penguins, and yes overall the Predators have carried more of the play, specifically 23% more. But considering goaltender performance is not included in play-by-play contributions, the only game that did not end with the better team winning, was game one.

Game three may have featured the best, or close to the best the Predators can perform. The series will likely turn on whether the Penguins are running low on gas, or just idling with their best hockey yet to come.

Contribution Leaders

Penguin Forwards

1. Evgeni Malkin led the Penguin forwards in overall and offensive performance. Only Guenzel was close to Malkin offensively on a night most Penguins were well contained.

2. Patric Hornqvist was close behind Malkin, but with a more defensive slant, and 3. Carter Rowney was also strong defensively, placing him in the third spot.

Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby, through three games, are rated fifth and seventh among Penguin forwards in overall contributions. How much is due to great Nashville defense, or bad breath, or resting Penguins?

Penguin Defensemen

1. Justin Shultz moved the puck well and led all Penguins defensemen in overall play, but would have rated fifth among Predator defensemen on this night. Only Daley contributed more offensively on the Pittsburgh blue line, but he struggled a bit defensively.

2. Brian Dumoulin was a distance behind Shultz with very modest offense and defense totals.

3. Olli Matta was in third but the relative performance of the Penguins d-core to that of Nashville’s is evident in the fact Maatta contributed just a fraction ahead of Nashville’s sixth defensemen in the game. His defensive contributions were solid, but he was among the weaker defensemen moving the puck.

Predator Forwards

1. James Neal and 2. Craig Smith were the clear leaders among Nashville forwards. Neal was strong offensively and shared defensive kudos with Forsberg. Smith led Predator forwards offensively.

3. Frederick Gaudreau contributed roughly half of the leaders but has steadily improved his play to be a strong playoff contributor for the Predators front end.

Predator Defensemen

1. Mattias Ekholm led a very strong Predators blue line, on a night when the top four Nashville defensemen all contributed more than the best performing Penguin defenseman.

2. Roman Josi was a close second with a goal and two assists and a modest defensive contribution, due largely to the fact the Predators were pushing on offense, rather than playing defense. Through three games, Josi is leading the next best defenseman in the series by 47%.

3. Ryan Ellis was a strong third with Subban close behind. Ellis led all blue liners in defensive contributions by a wide margin.

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