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Predators stun Penguins to level Stanley Cup series

The Nashville Predators roared back into Stanley Cup contention on Monday with a series-leveling 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Calle Jarnkrok, Frederick Gaudreau, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg scored as the Predators swept to a deserved win at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to tie the best-of-seven series at two apiece.

Nashville, who dropped the opening two games of the series before romping to a 5-1 win in Game 3 on Saturday, picked up where they left off at the weekend to overwhelm the defending champions.

Netminder Pekke Rinne had another inspired night for the Predators, saving 23 of 24 shots including an incredible double save in the second period to deny both Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel what would have been a game-tying goal.

Jarnkrok fired the Predators into the lead in the first period, tucking away a rebound from close range. Pittsburgh challenged for goaltender interference but Jarnkrok’s goal was deemed good.

The Penguins responded swiftly however with Crosby getting the visitors back on level terms, coolly finishing past Rinne after sending the Predators’ goalie the wrong way.

Gaudreau then sent Nashville into the lead with a clever wraparound. Initially it looked as if his shot had been cleared but a replay review showed the puck had crossed the line to send the Predators 2-1 up.

Rinne’s double save brought the home fans to their feet soon afterwards and the stadium erupted shortly after that when Mike Fisher and Arvidsson combined superbly to double the lead.

Fisher’s desperate lunging pass sent Arvidsson through on goal and the Swedish star finished with aplomb to trigger delirium.

With time ticking down in the third period, Forsberg then applied the coup de grace, steering the puck into an empty net from long range to make it 4-1.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette singled out netminder Rinne for praise before attributing the victory to a team effort.

“Pekke was excellent tonight, outstanding,” Laviolette said. “But I liked the way the guys stayed focused from start to finish. And that’s the difference sometimes. Now everything matters, every pass matters, every check matters, every face-off matters. And I thought our guys were sharp from start to finish.”

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan bemoaned his team’s failure to breach the Nashville defence more than once.

“It’s hard to win when you score one goal,” Sullivan said. “Having said that, I thought tonight, of all the games we played, we generated the most chances and the highest quality.

“It didn’t go in the net for us. We had a number of grade A opportunities, a couple of breakaways. There were a lot of things from a process standpoint that we really liked.

“I think we just got to stay with it. We believe we got guys that can score goals and can finish.”

Game 5 takes place in Pittsburgh on Thursday.