PITTSBURGH – Almost as if he was clairvoyant, Gary Bettman got ahead of what looked like what might have ended up being the Stanley Cup Final opener’s chief story line two hours before puck drop.
Endorsing the often- divisive offside review process where goals can be overturned even if the entry into the offensive zone is offside by a hair, the NHL commissioner prophetically said reviews are “working exactly as they were intended” before the Nashville Predators saw a strong start and early lead erased because Filip Forsberg’s back skate was centimeters off the ice before he entered the zone on a goal that ended up being waved off.
It was a pivotal moment because the Predators’ fast start was extinguished and the Penguins responded by scoring three times in a 4-minute, 11-second span in the final 4:28 of the first period en route to a 5-3 victory. The Predators, who held the Penguins to no shots in the second period and no shots in a 37-minute span, erased that 3-0 deficit until Jake Guentzel’s winner late in the third.
The disallowed goal came when Forsberg teed up P.K. Subban. However, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan challenged that the Predators were offside. After a long review, linesmen Scott Cherrey and Brian Murphy ruled Forsberg’s right skate was off the ice when he caught Subban’s initial pass just inside the blue line.
Coincidentally, during his State of the League address before the game, Bettman had said: “We hear the commentary, ‘Well, it was just offsides by a little bit. His skate was in the air.’ The fact of the matter is, it’s our job to make sure the rules are complied with.”
Long shot drought
When the Predators held the Penguins without a shot on goal for 37 minutes, they became the first team to hold an opponent to zero shots on goal in one period of a Stanley Cup Final game since the NHL began tracking that statistic in 1957-58.
“We weren’t very good. We weren’t very good,” Sullivan said.
Outshot 26-12, Penguins forward Conor Sheary noted, “If we can play our worst game and still come out with a win, that’s a good sign.”
The past five Cup winners have won Game 1.
Subban steals show
The best part of Sunday’s Media Day came when charismatic Predators defenseman P.K. Subban cut short his own availability, grabbed an NHL Network microphone and went around interviewing Nashville teammates Mike Fisher, Ryan Ellis and Vernon Fiddler.
Subban didn’t mind getting a little more personal than the typical reporter would have. He asked Fisher how it felt to be the best looking player on the Predators and probably in the NHL.
After Fisher answered, “Says who,” his wife — country music star Carrie Underwood — tweeted: “Says who? Uh … your wife, for one!” followed by a bunch of emojis.
• Guentzel leads the NHL with 10 goals and tied an NHL rookie record with four winning goals in 20 playoff games. Only four other rookies in NHL have scored 10 or more goals in a single postseason: The North Stars’ Dino Ciccarelli in 1981 (14 in 19 games), Chicago’s Jeremy Roenick in 1990 (11 in 20), Boston’s Brad Marchand in 2011 (11 in 25) and Montreal’s Claude Lemieux in 1986 (10 in 20).
• Bettman also reiterated Monday that NHL players will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. He would not reveal any repercussions for players under league contract who decide to participate anyway.
• The league has extended the window for expansion Las Vegas to make its draft selections from 48 hours to 72 beginning June 18. Players selected will be announced sporadically throughout the 90-minute NHL Awards Show on June 21.
• All teams’ new Adidas jerseys will be unveiled June 21. The 2017-18 NHL schedule will also be released that week. Next year’s salary cap will be somewhere between $73 million and $77 million.