PITTSBURGH — The Stanley Cup will be in Nashville on Sunday, but it won’t be prepped for the Predators.
It only can be awarded that night to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who decimated the Predators on Thursday in a 6-0 laugher in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. That would be familiar to the defending champions, who claimed each of their previous four Stanley Cups on the road.
The Predators face elimination for the first time this postseason Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, where they have won 13 of their past 14 playoff games.
The Penguins unceremoniously ushered the Predators out of Pittsburgh to start with the Final, but Nashville wasn't demoralized by the misleadingly lopsided losses.
In fact, the Predators were pleased overall with their play at PPG Paints Arena despite surrendering nine total goals in Games 1 and 2. Their aim Thursday was to minimize the mistakes that the Penguins previously feasted on in taking a 2-0 series lead.
As in Game 1, the Predators returned to the locker room Thursday at first intermission in a 3-0 hole, but it wasn't the product of Penguins puck luck. Pittsburgh's stars, as they are known to do, victimized the Predators, who shrunk in response.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby carved through the Predators' defense with an ease that should be unfair, assisting on half of his team's goals. Center Evgeni Malkin and forward Phil Kessel combined for five points, shrugging off external concerns about their lack of production.
There were two concerning developments Thursday for the Predators. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was unable to unclog whatever psychological blockage exists at PPG Paints Arena. He has allowed 11 goals in seven Stanley Cup Final periods in Pittsburgh, not lasting past the first period Thursday when Predators coach Peter Laviolette replaced him with backup Juuse Saros.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis' night ended early in the second period because of an apparent injury.
Reach Adam Vingan at email@example.com and on Twitter @AdamVingan.
PREDATORS vs. PENGUINS
Penguins lead Stanley Cup Final 3-2
All games start at 8 p.m. ET
Game 1: Pittsburgh 5, Nashville 3
Game 2: Pittsburgh 4, Nashville 1
Game 3: Nashville 5, Pittsburgh 1
Game 4: Nashville 4, Pittsburgh 1
Game 5: Pittsburgh 6, Nashville 0
Sunday: at Nashville (NBC)
x — Wednesday: at Pittsburgh (NBC)
x — if necessary
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