The Pittsburgh Penguins should be embarrassed; not because of the final score of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final but because of the way they conducted themselves in the final minutes of the third period. Forty-four penalty minutes, three game misconducts, and an ungodly amount of undisciplined plays all equal a very concerning loss for Pittsburgh.
‘We need to change… I don’t know. It’s tough to say right now. I know we can play better.’ –Evgeni Malkin following Game 3 loss
Act Like You’ve Been There
Wait a second, they have been there! The Penguins have now lost a game in each of the last three series by three or more goals, including a very similar 5-1 Game 3 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Let’s not forget that Pittsburgh also hoisted the Stanley Cup a year ago and are by far the more experienced team in comparison to Nashville. The behavior at the end of Game 3 on Saturday night should be expected from inexperienced team who’s losing, but not the defending Cup Champions.
Sullivan: "Disappointed we didn't get the result but understand this is a series. Our guys have been thru this. Can draw on experience" -MC
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) June 4, 2017
Losing a game 5-1 should be embarrassing enough for a team competing for a championship, but the Penguins did more damage to themselves in Nashville during the third period. They have now proven that the Predators are under their skin. To a certain extent, you expect physical play. Phil Kessel defending his teammate is admirable. However, 44 penalty minutes is excessive, especially when 42 of those came in the final period.
Isn’t a New Scenario for Pittsburgh
The Penguins have bounced back from lopsided losses all playoffs, but instead of using the third period of their former lopsided losses as target practice and retribution, they used the remaining minutes of those losses to score goals and capture any momentum they could. Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final could not have gone worse for Pittsburgh, and they only have themselves (and their lack of discipline) to blame.
Didn’t Have to Be This Way
The Penguins lost an ugly game, but by partaking in the extracurricular activities in the third period that only added fuel to the fire that is the Nashville fan base, they made it tougher on themselves to move forward. The Predators have stolen every ounce of momentum in this series and of the nine periods of hockey played, Nashville has won eight of them.
The third period of Game 3 was a punch in the gut for Pittsburgh. Most fans probably turned the television off and ended the night early. You didn’t miss much — several stoppages in play due to angry, dismantled Penguins retaliating against Predators that took every chance they got to hit the players in white. The Penguins looked upset, they looked frazzled and they look undisciplined. They did not look like a team that’s in position to win a Stanley Cup. For the first time this post-season, the Penguins came unhinged and Nashville took advantage. The Predators seem to be in control of their game, and in control of this series.
Despite being ahead in the series, the Penguins are in trouble. Pekka Rinne is hot, Smashville is ignited and Pittsburgh is frustrated. Game 4 is crucial for Pittsburgh. Nine out of 10 times, the Stanley Cup Final is won by the team who takes a 2-0 series lead. The Penguins could be in jeopardy of falling into the small minority of teams who failed to capture the Cup after winning the first two games. Time will tell, but the Penguins need to put this effort, and all the emotions that came with it, behind them… quickly.
Smith works full time with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit set on ending world hunger by 2030. He’s a hockey enthusiast living in Pittsburgh, PA and formerly covered the Pittsburgh Penguins for THW.
Follow him on twitter @BSmithWV